Volkswagen: Choking On Bad Choices

Do you think that your Volkswagen is good for the Earth? Think again. The German car manufacturer, known for creating the famous Beetle, is now under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency for falsifying emissions numbers in thousands of vehicles.

Volkswagen has been accused of circumventing pollution controls for vehicles that have been sold in the United States since 2008. Vehicles are allegedly equipped with software that turns on emissions controls only when the vehicles are tested. When those vehicles are driving, however, that software turns off, causing the cars to produce emissions that are almost 40 times higher than the nation’s allowable standard.

640px-VW_Passat_2.0_TDI_BlueMotion_Technology_Comfortline_(B7)_–_Frontansicht,_1._Mai_2011,_Ratingen

The 2010 Volkswagen Passat is one of the models containing software that falsifies emissions testing. Photo courtesy of M 93 via Wikipedia CC.

These actions violate the Clean Air Act, and could cost Volkswagen almost $18 billion in penalties.

Other car manufacturers, like Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor Co., have been penalized by the EPA for similar claims about fuel economy, so this sort of scandal is not new in the auto industry.

Volkswagen’s chief executive officer, Martin Winterkorn, resigned Wednesday, detailing his reasons in a statement on the company’s web site. He took full responsibility for the actions of the company and said that Volkswagen needed a fresh start.

Transparency is key in crisis situations such as this and Volkswagen has done its best to release information to consumers and show that they are working to remedy the situation. In addition to Winkertorn’s statement on the Volkswagen web site, a video statement was released on the company’s Facebook page in addition to a lengthy post explaining the situation. For the most part, comments on both posts offer an outpouring of support for both Winterkorn and the company as a whole.

Did Volkswagen officials truly believe that this decision would go undetected? While it is unclear why Volkswagen thought this plan of action was a good idea, this could hurt the brand’s reputation. Will Volkswagen sales be affected due to this scandal? Only time will tell.

How would you rate Volkswagen’s handling of this situation? Does this represent good crisis communication?

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6 Responses to Volkswagen: Choking On Bad Choices

  1. Morgan Rath says:

    I think Volkswagen did a very good job of handling this public relations crisis. They have been working to move forward, despite their negative choices in the past. The CEO stepped down, showing that the company is taking immediate action to incite a, hopefully positive, change in company policy. In addition, Volkswagen is keeping communication open with the public via social media. This type of interaction and communication with stakeholders is key.

    I think that Volkswagen is taking the right steps to take care of this crisis; however, the company is not out of the woods yet. In order for the crisis to be fully handled, the company must make more definitive moves to ensure that this will not happen again in the future.

  2. Courtney Bannon says:

    I really hate how Volkswagen is handling the situation. They used their CEO as a scapegoat and allowed him to take the brunt of responsibility, even though this is clearly a deep rooted issue in their culture. They have communicated that they will pay these fines, but I haven’t seen them do anything to repair their credibility. People may forgive that they tricked the government, but Volkswagen customers are unlikely to just forget that they were lied to. If they don’t have the ethics to build environmentally sound vehicles that follow the law, why can a consumer trust their safety standards are okay? Volkswagen needs to apologize, sincerely. They need to create a plan to change their company’s ethics. They need to dedicate a lot of energy into rebuilding the trust of their customers, and they need to improve their image in the community so that they are still able to convert customers to their brand of cars.

  3. Brittany DIerken says:

    Volkswagen public relations has handled this crisis by making the company be as transparent to possible to the public, reaching out on all platforms. I think this is an example of good crisis communication, because Volkswagen is coming forth with the truth and being honest about their deceit. If Volkswagen were to choose the other option and cover-up this scandal, the company would be tainting its reputation and losing all client relationships/loyalty. This had hurt the brand’s reputation and finances, but other automakers have faced scandals like this and have recovered.

    The benefits of being honest about the situation is admitting to the company’s mistakes and promising different strategies for better results. After lying for so long, they have realized that their clients deserve the truth to be able to recover their credibility as an automaker. Volkswagen has released statements from the chief executive officer before he resigned and has connected with its buyers on all sites. I think this was very important, because they are addressing their audience on multiple platdo

  4. Brittany DIerken says:

    Volkswagen public relations has handled this crisis by making the company be as transparent to possible to the public, reaching out on all platforms. I think this is an example of good crisis communication, because Volkswagen is coming forth with the truth and being honest about their deceit. If Volkswagen were to choose the other option and cover-up this scandal, the company would be tainting its reputation and losing all client relationships/loyalty. This had hurt the brand’s reputation and finances, but other automakers have faced scandals like this and have recovered.

    After lying for so long, they have realized that their clients deserve the truth to be able to recover their credibility as an automaker. Volkswagen has released statements from the chief executive officer before he resigned and has connected with its buyers on all sites. I think this was very important, because they are addressing their audience on multiple platforms to make sure everyone has the full story from them. No rumors are surfacing, because Volkswagen came forth with the truth themselves. Volkswagen has admitted to the company’s mistakes and is able to promise different strategies for better results. The public relations department has reacted very well to this scandal and is now preparing for recovery.

  5. Breanna Johnson says:

    I think Volkswagen made the right decision by choosing to be transparent about the crisis at hand. The company could have chosen to cover up the situation or play the blame game, but by deciding to be honest and straightforward about the crisis, Volkswagen is putting itself in a better position. Timeliness is also a factor in this. I think it’s good that Volkswagen did not wait long to release statements or videos. Volkswagen responded to the problem quickly and was able to address the criticism and demonstrate plans to rectify the situation. Taking responsibility for the choices that were made and communicating a plan of action are the best things for the company to do in this sort of situation.

  6. Cassandra Weller says:

    I do think that Volkswagen officials believed that they could get away with their cars utilizing emissions cheating controls. In your blog it states that this has been going on since 2008 that’s seven years that they had the chance to come clean and fix their cheat, but they chose to only address it after it blew up in their face. I will give them credit for how they handled the crisis. It was smart of the CEO to step down and say that the company needs a fresh start because he admitted his wrongs. Volkswagen could definitely bounce back from this as long as it proves to be trustworthy in its future endeavors.

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