Das Auto? Nein. Das Volk

Volkswagen isn’t “Das Auto” any more. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based company, with all of its troubles, and all eyes focused on its U.S. regulatory struggles, has ditched its tag of eight years.

It’s a branding sea change, probably centered on moving the focus away from, er, engineering, and toward the relationship loyal owners have to the vehicles.

It definitely would be a little weird at this juncture to be touting VW engineering cred. It would be like advertising a scenic northern passage on the Titanic. Okay, that’s harsh. Volkswagen isn’t going down any time soon. The brand will recover once it gets cleaned up. It’s more like Walter White as a spokesperson for Winnebago.

Brand board member Jürgen Stackmann said the effort is a ”return to strengthening the close emotional bond between brand, customer and product." One ad shows different generations of people and their attachment to their vehicles as part of their lives. Said Stackmann, stating the obvious, "We have lost credibility and trust in recent months.”

He also said, correctly I think, that there is a unique relationship between Volkswagen and its owners, which makes the whole diesel fiasco that much worse. Cheat on a girlfriend or boyfriend and the relationship is over, for a week or so. Cheat on your spouse, and you incur the wrath of gods and lawyers. Brand loyalty is a marriage, and I guess vice versa. Volkswagen isn’t a placeholder brand sold on sticker price. Its brand promise is set to a high standard.

As for the campaign, you can see it here. It includes a web special and social media channels. The effort, via DDB, kicks off in the UK, Spain and Portugal in early February. Austria, Switzerland and the home market of Germany follow in the same month. The campaign will then be successively rolled out in numerous other European markets and the rest of the world from March.

Meanwhile, Frank Turch, who was head of the group’s quality assurance division for several years, is out at VW, according to a company statement. Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler, board member for technical development at the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brand, will take his position. Turch was put on leave last year after the diesel emissions scandal, will remain an advisor, per the group statement yesterday.

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