Volkswagen just sold one of my inventions, and I didn’t get a dime for it. Volkswagen didn’t get rich on the sale either. After more than 20 years of trying not too hard, Volkswagen is getting out of the non-OEM service business and sells its Stop + Go chain of quick-fit shops to the management.
“It was supposed to be an all-out assault on the non-OEM service business,” writes Automobilwoche [sub] in an eulogy. The attack ended in defeat.
In the eighties, I was supposed to start a campaign to “re-capture lost service customers” for Volkswagen and Audi dealers. According to the data, customers were deserting the dealers in droves as their cars came out of warranty. Hold your comments about bad VW dealers. All brands have that problem, much to the delight of Pep Boys, AutoZone, Meinecke, and Jiffy Lube.
“Gentlemen,” I said in a presentation, “there is nothing to recapture. Most of the Volkswagen and Audi drivers have never been in a dealership.” If someone buys a car used, the service bays at the branded dealer are usually avoided at all costs. Half of Germany’s cars are older than eight years, and those cars come into a dealership only in a dire emergency. Those customers go elsewhere. “And if you want them, you need to build an elsewhere.”
“No glass and marble. Something that says low price and professional quality. And no Volkswagen logos.”
The idea was accepted. Stop + Go was born. A lot of red. A lot of green. We opened a pilot store in Berlin and one in Cologne. Hundreds of these shops were to follow. International roll-out. The competition was shaking in its service booths.
More than 20 years later, the number of Stop + Go stores still stands at 24. It quickly became clear that Volkswagen wants to make a lot of money selling original parts, but they didn’t want to make the investment to develop successful pilot stores, core to any franchise strategy. A mid-term refresh of the Polo probably received more marketing support than Stop + Go in 20 years. It’s not that there wasn’t enough money. There was money for corporate identity, expensive architectural concepts, there were at least three expensive re-launches. At the last re-org, the matter was elevated to the Volkswagen Group level, and the manager reported directly to the board. All for naught. The mascot (lots of red and green) I had created is now in the German Werbefiguren-Museum.
It’s a shame. Selling parts often contributes a third of a manufacturer’s profits. Especially in lean times, it can keep the company afloat. Apparently, Volkswagen does not need the money.