Brand Burn by Volkswagen


You get what you pay for

Volkswagen’s new marketing campaign has really struck a nerve with me. The latest TV campaign, consisting of different adverts, is actually quite creative and well put together – but it is the slogan that they have got completely wrong. With VW, supposedly, “you get what you pay for”; but read on a little further and I will tell you how the brand image they continue to portray is a lie!

The whole campaign focuses on the fact that VW products are markedly more expensive than their competitor’s equivalents, with the adverts inferring that you pay for a more substantial build quality and subsequent reliability. But unfortunately, as I have discovered (to the tune of around £800) with my new Polo Bluemotion and via reading more forums, reports and articles in hindsight, it is a complete fabrication. Perhaps the basis for VW’s marketing used to be based on a product truth, but that is certainly no longer the case. The VW brand has steadily slid down the reliability index and considering that the aesthetic styling doesn’t change much with each new generation of car that is released, one has to wonder: why are they so much more expensive than rival vehicles?

To rub salt in the wounds, I have had to foot the mounting bills for the diesel Polo Bluemotion, which to date has only 27,000 miles on the clock – and VW have been less than helpful. Despite admitting faulty parts were a cause in one circumstance, they could not help at all with the repairs and were terrible to deal with, both at the local dealership level, who were simply obnoxious, and within the brand customer service centre. Dealing with their complaints department’s ridiculous process was far too painful; their only answer was “have you spoken to your local dealership?” I can’t help but think they would have done less brand damage if they had their founder, Mr. Adolf Hitler, answering the phones. The two departments played one another off in a petty volley to decide who should cover the issues I experienced, and in the end, neither of them did. VW’s pathetic gesture of 15% off the repair bill came 12 days too late – after I had been forced to take the car to an independent specialist for the work to be carried out.

I bought a VW for two main reasons; I saw the brand as a step up from my previous, and brilliant, Vauxhall, and I saw investing in a Polo as certified way to save money in anticipation of buying and moving into my first house. My perception of the VW brand was one of reliability and quality – yet you might be as surprised as I was recently to find out that they are fifth from bottom in the 2013 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Survey. I thought it was a safe choice to buy a VW as I would not have any unexpected repair bills on a nearly brand new car and the Bluemotion boasts very low running costs, but alas, I very much misjudged the brand – or rather, the brand has been very much misrepresented. However, by taking it on its merits, I invested in a product that I should have made myself more aware of before purchasing it – something which disappoints me considering I have previously worked in the automotive sector and currently work in marketing.

The reason this angers me is not that the car let me down; cars will break down, that is a fact of life. It angers me because their brand is misleading. A company cannot expect to charge a higher price for an equal or inferior product by building a misleading brand image. This un-authentic brand image simply amplifies the ‘burn’ when experiences do not go to plan. VW’s brand image tries to justify an inflated price by suggesting the brand makes a product of superior quality; but in truth, they do not.

For me, the VW brand is irreparably damaged and I will never go back to them or associated brands for a vehicle. But more importantly than that, I now actively discourage others from investing in their products too. Whilst my sentiments will cause no sleepless nights among the VW executives, I feel that as the younger generation become the key buying demographic, this poor promotion will cost them.

*My poor VW experiences:

  • Bluemotion stop-start function ceased (VW covered)
  • Door sills falling off (VW covered)
  • Garage bizarrely lost the car aerial during diagnosis, and when I suggested that the technician could replace it with an aerial from another model on the lot so that I won’t have to return to collect it another day, he remarks that he might have to have me arrested if that happens and that I should listen to a CD instead.
  • Unexplained high idle speed
  • EGR Valve replacement (VW refused to cover even though only 26,000 miles on the vehicle, and wanted £1200+ for the repair)
  • Window motor replacement (VW refused to cover even though they admitted it was a faulty part)
  • VW customer service cannot authorise repair to the vehicle because I have no prior service history with VW. The reason for this is that having only had the car 9 months, it has not yet required a service. This “cleverly thought out” process of only offering assistance to customers who had actually had a service through them has simply ensured that I will now never have a service history with VW as I have decided to cut my losses and sell the car.

Keep up the nice work, VW.


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