By on May 26, 2016

Volkswagen letter

Pity poor Volkswagen. It’s constantly accused of doing the wrong thing in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal.

But guess what? There’s reason for it, and here’s yet another example.

TTAC reader Rudy Lukez has waited months to find out what Volkswagen plans to do with his 2014 Jetta Sportwagen TDI. So, when a package from the company showed up in his Highlands Ranch, Colorado mailbox this morning, the repeat Volkswagen owner figured his questions were about to be answered.

The contents of the package didn’t do the company any favors, and it sure didn’t help Lukez. In his words:

The package, clearly marked from (Volkswagen of America), had a big bold announcement on the outside: “Inside, your next journey awaits”. As I walked home from our neighborhood mailboxes, I thought – “Wow, VW is finally going to give me some information about our diesel.” I could hardly wait to open the package.

What a surprise when I opened the package. Inside was a beautiful full color booklet on VW cars and I thought maybe I would find some sort of offer or enticement to get me ready for the buyback.

Then I found the letter. The letter was a marketing piece from VW thanking me for owning my car (it was very specific) and encouraging me to hop down to my local VW dealer to buy another VW.

Volkswagen somehow figured that after breaking customer trust with a deception-laced scandal and putting the fate of 480,000 vehicles in limbo for months, asking repeat buyers to buy another vehicle was a killer idea. A sure-fire, bona fide hit of a marketing ploy.

Volkswagen letter

Lukez, who’s now on his fifth (and probably last) Volkswagen, wasn’t impressed.

“I just wish they would have given me an update on our diesel,” he wrote.

“It will be hard for me to even consider a VW after the lack of communication since the goodwill package last year. I would think VW would at least scrub their mailing list to remove diesel owners. Opening the package and finding a beautiful wrapper that says ‘Imagine your next Volkswagen’ is cruel.”

Volkswagen’s tone deaf response to anxious consumers is one reason why its reputation is more tarnished than cutlery on the Titanic. Last week, TTAC interviewed a corporate reputation expert who regularly tracks consumer sentiment. He gave Volkswagen a failing grade on its scandal management, and his data shows no sign of renewed trust in the automaker.

The letter to Lukez, which didn’t even contain a special offer (not that deals can solve Volkswagen’s woes), is more proof of the disconnect between the company’s concerns and that of its customers.

In a follow-up exchange, Lukez had more to say:

The whole experience was strange and reflects poorly on VW’s marketing team.  The lack of communication and progress reports has been unfortunate.  I believe when this is all done, whenever that happens, it will be studied in business schools for decades as a case study of what not to do in a major crisis involving multinationals … Somehow VW’s mailing almost seemed reckless and uncaring.

The multi-billlion-dollar settlement for Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter TDI models (which includes a buyback program, owner compensation, the possibility for a fix, and environmental remediation) won’t be finalized until at least mid-summer.

Until then, all owners can do is wait, and maybe read the glossy brochures Volkswagen sends.

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60 Comments on “TTAC Reader Unimpressed With Tone Deaf Volkswagen Mailout...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    This man should get a V8 Lexus and enjoy his life and service/dealer experiences, rather than being stuck with such VW asshattery. C’mon Rudy, you can do it!

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    VW America is stalling and kicking the can down the road in the hopes that other major auto manufacturers wind up embroiled in the same scandal – which would significantly take the heat off them if emissions fraud can be proven to be commonplace. It’s also likely this direct mail marketing was something VW paid for many months ago and only now arriving, ironically, at frustrated diesel owner’s doors.

  • avatar
    notwhoithink

    I’m also an affected TDI owner, and I got the same brochure a couple of months ago. Typical clueless VW.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Not fair! I want a shiny brochure so I can toss it into the recycling bin. All I get relating to my car is offers from Sirius begging me to reactivate my account with them. Maybe mine is too old for VW since it’s a 2012.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    There is simply no excuse for this today, none. With the amount of data available to companies for marketing and demand generation campaigns, it would likely have not been impossible (maybe difficult depending on how the data is structured and located, but not impossible) to continue to do demand generation campaigns and filter all diesel owners out, or to construct a different campaign specifically for diesel owners (a better solution).

    This is terrible, lazy, marketing.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    This is the “Who cares why anyway?” approach. I guess if they get 10% to buy and 90% are permanently turned off, based on their calculation, they were at 0%, so they’ve improved infinitely.

  • avatar
    FOG

    I am not letting VW off the hook, but this mailing looks like something from a completely different area of VW, i.e. marketing and sales. Someone within VW or a supplier of VW had a campaign deadline and didn’t care about how it affected another area of the company. “Not my area, I did my job. Now don’t blame me that it took you so long to do yours.”

    This is a lose/lose situation for everyone involved. Anything the company does to fix the problem will piss somebody else off. Or worse, there are people out there trolling for the opportunity to sue. They will look for any way that VW responds as to whether or not they can profit from it.

    I have personal strong feelings that VW is not being pushed hard enough on this, but I know many U.S. jobs depend on that company continuing to exist in our borders.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Even worse, in the top photo there seems to be at least THREE different sans-serif typefaces being used. Pick one!

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I am convinced that VW’s legal and PR staff actually WANT to see VW execs thrown in prison and for the company to go bankrupt; it’s the only explanation for their consistently bizarre and counter-productive behavior throughout the scandal.

    The latest, from the NYT this AM: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/26/business/volkswagen-challenges-us-jurisdiction-in-emissions-scandal.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

    Some choice highlights:
    Volkswagen is challenging allegations made by the Justice Department over its diesel emissions scandal, questioning the American authorities’ jurisdiction and contending that the accusations against it do not justify penalties.

    [Say WHAT!!!! The “accusations do not justify penalties”? If they were TRYING to increase the amount of pain the DoJ will eventually inflict (indpendent of what the EPA’s going to wring them for), this is certainly the way to go about it.]

    But in a response to the Justice Department, filed Tuesday in San Francisco, the German automaker appeared to back away from its mea culpa, saying that the facts of the case remained unclear and that it was still conducting an internal investigation.

    [I’m pretty sure that VW’s actions mean that the DoJ will simply completely and totally ignore the result of any “independent” investigation VW provides.]

    “It also challenged the court’s jurisdiction over Volkswagen, and over its subsidiary Audi, saying that cars in the United States were sold through local businesses and not the parent companies. It said that the statute of limitations voided any conduct at Volkswagen before 2010.”

    [Arguing about the statute of limitations is legit IF YOUR CONDUCT DIDN’T CONTINUE UNTIL NEARLY THE PRESENT DAY. It’s technically correct, but it’s not a great negotiating technique when the maximum penalties are so vast. And jurisdiction? VW attempting to foist all the blame on VW USA is not going to work, since all the decision making was done in Germany. The fact that the cars were technically sold to VW USA before being sold to dealers is utterly irrelevant (and, again, a really bad idea to try and use as an argument.)]

    “Over all, the Justice Department “fails to allege facts sufficient” for any penalties, Volkswagen lawyers said. But the carmaker described the filing as part of the legal process, and said it “has no bearing on Volkswagen’s commitment to resolving the U.S. government’s claims.”

    [The boilerplate lie of “We look forward to fighting these unfounded allegations in court.” is not one you pull out when the DoJ has such wide discretion in what to charge you with, and you’ve already been caught red (or sooty) handed.]

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      It’s pretty astonishing that they want to say the cars weren’t theirs, but rather belonged to VWoA, or the local dealers – neither of whom engineered the defeat device.

      Makes me want to trigger Godwin’s Law.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      “…range of penalties so vast…”

      Yet in the end the DOJ (with the political help of the State Dept.) and the political influence of the state where the VW’s are made and the VW dealer lobby, will likely step on its dick and cut a deal for 20¢ on the penalty dollar.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        Dealers have nearly zero influence on a national level; their energies are generally directed at a state level (hence the mind-blowingly stupid franchise laws), and VW, as a foreign corporation with only a single US plant, and miniscule US marketshare, is also utterly lacking in political power.

        I’m sure TN would be upset about Chattanooga going away, but that’s not going to be enough to stop the DoJ, especially with them as mad as they are.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    What’s more insulting, no news on the fate of diesel cars, or seeing the ancient Tiguan still marketed?

  • avatar
    jvossman

    I actually do want another Golf Wagon, but I am stuck. My KBB is sub $5k versus 9k the day the scandal hit. Without knowing what the compensation will be I am reluctant to move forward with the deal. My dealer is stuck in the stone ages as well. I made an appointment, test drove the car, asked that they follow up with email, didn’t hear anything, sent an email to salesperson and GM, heard nothing. Sigh.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I think the VW compensation plan will bolster your effective trade-in value to meet – or exceed – that $9k number.

      However, given the apparent disinterest by the dealer, I’d take the settlement money and shop elsewhere. At the very least, they could have kept you on the hook by saying they look forward to making a buy/trade deal as soon as they are authorized to execute on the settlement program.

    • 0 avatar
      Notadude

      Run as fast as you can…so many red flags!

    • 0 avatar
      mazdaman007

      Quite incredible really. It amazes me how consistently brain dead the entire VWoA organization is in p!ss!ng on their customers. Do they not realize the monumental task involved just to get potential customers into a VW dealership in general let alone after dieselgate? And they can’t be bothered to follow up after a repeat customer takes a test drive ? Utterly stunned….

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        I emailed the guy that I bought my 2012 wagon and 2014 Jetta sedan from in mid-2014 asking when the new wagons would be available on their lot. He replied and told me he was now working at the Toyota dealer (good for him, smart move).

        He gave me the email of his replacement. I emailed that guy the same question, never heard a word from him. Dealers can be kind of stupid sometimes. Also the sky is blue and water is wet.

    • 0 avatar
      VenomV12

      I think it is time for you to move on from VW, or at least that dealership.

  • avatar
    David A.

    I’m a 3x VW owner and this last one is a Golf TDI. I received nothing. And when they buy this car back, they’ll receive nothing but the car. I’m buying something non VW umbrella with a little bit of true lux instead of the overpriced BS they peddle. Someone mentioned Lexus….. :)

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      What would happen if you sold off the interior, and every component not required to get the car back to the dealer? They couldn’t refuse the buy-back, could they?

      That’d be one way to get compensation. WIll VW be selling engine-less TDIs to scrappers and used parts sellers?

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        If the buyback happens I’m planning on throwing my steel winter rims on and keeping the factory Bioline rims and will sell them. Taking the interior out is a good idea though. I could put a lawn chair on the driver’s side and get it to the dealer. ;)

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Unnamed VW execs announced today that to correct the environmental damage caused by the sale of illegal diesel engine powered cars that within the next six months all pavement will be removed from VW dealer ships and trees will be planted to reduce carbon dioxide. When ask if this would make it difficult for owners to get their cars repaired VW responded “no, it would not at all affect the timeline for repairs.”

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I agree; that is extremely tone-deaf. Unless a *really* good deal on a Golf R or GTI comes my way, I’m about done with Volkswagen as well, principally because the brand does not have anything else that interests me.

    • 0 avatar
      TriumphDriver

      I’m in the same position. My 2011 Sportwagen has been a good car, no issues in 93,000 miles other than the exhaust pressure relief valve which was covered by VW who extended the warranty on that item. My experiences with the various dealerships was generally good, although the only work I had done was the free services in the first couple of years. I do my own routine maintenance.
      As far as I can determine a replacement for the Sportwagen with a manual gearbox and a sun roof is not available, the way they package things means you can only get the sun roof with an automatic. Not interested.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    VW has been shooting itself in the foot for over three decades. Why stop now?

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I haven’t received this mailer yet. What I did get in the mail today from Volkswagen was the third safety recall for my wife’s Passat TDI. First the steering wheel clock spring (which ended up failing a couple weeks ago and was replaced by a dealer owned by a guy I know), the Takata airbag recall, and now a recall about incorrectly installed seals on a harness that is connected to an underbody sensor, which could cause a MIL light or – at worst – fiery death.

    Seriously, they can’t buy this car back quick enough.

    • 0 avatar
      Notadude

      I got the Takata note too, which they also said they don’t have the ability to fix yet. Presumably because in two months, many of us won’t own the cars anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I’ve gotten 5 recall notices for Takata airbag inflators, which tell me to hurry up and wait, b/c they don’t have the parts yet necessary to effectuate the recall, but they may at some future date, and if they do get the appropriate replacement actuators, they’ll be sure to let me know.

        So, it’s all good.

        • 0 avatar
          sfvarholy

          It’s not just VW that’s doing that with the airbags. BMW is doing it too. I think BMW is hoping my E46 will be in a junkyard before they have to fix it.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        They don’t have the parts to repair the leaky harness issue either. But remember, there are plenty of gas Volkswagens out there with Takata bags.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Reminds me of Lily Tomlin as a telephone operator on Laugh In many years ago. In response to a customer indignant about poor service, she exclaimed, “We’re the phone company. We don’t have to care.” This has been VW’s attitude throughout the diesel scandal.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I imagine that this conversation is representative of those between VW US dealers and VW WOB HQ, where the double talker guy is VW HQ…

    http://youtu.be/ryakL3DXhAA

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I’d be curious to know if any diesel Audi or Porsche owners have received similar marketing mailers in this way, or are the higher end brands staffed with swifter marketing folks.

  • avatar
    Notadude

    I can imagine my next Volkswagen…it looks exactly like a Honda.

  • avatar
    EAF

    VW does not give a flying F about you or your momma. Boycott their junk products!

  • avatar
    Robbie

    A good metric to jointly judge vehicle and dealership performance: the mileage at which a dealer maintained vehicle is quoted a repair bill that exceeds the value of the vehicle.

    My VW Rabbit reached this at 115,00 miles. That left me unimpressed with VW.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    I’m betting someone in VW’s offices realized each diesel settlement was going to cost big bucks, whereas this mailer would be maybe $25.00 to send.

    So, since diesel owners are likely to be upset anyways given the overall situation, if they send 1000 mailers and convince one person to trade in their legal liability , they just justified the cost of the $2,500 expense with money left over.

    Yeah they pissed off the other 999 recipients, but their reputation is shot anyway. Scale it up to the nationwide level, and VW could shave millions off their substantial legal liability before the government axe falls.

  • avatar
    stevenj

    I was formerly a VW fan myself… until I purchased one from a dealer and had to deal with their pathetic customer service, and misleading warranty claims. Once you’ve made the purchase they really don’t care about you anymore. I don’t care if they are good cars, they aren’t worth the hassle and mistreatment you get from the company.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Keep it up, VW. The more weirdness that ensues, the more the value of their cars goes down and the better deal I’ll get on buying one. Mwahahaha….

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Why is Rudy upset? It says right on the envelope “Inside, your next (Dodge) Journey awaits”!

    Since VW does not have a 3 row CUV and only 4-cylinder cars are faulty, they will be putting affected Diesel owners in a 3-row 4-cylinder Dodge Journey!

    • 0 avatar
      FOG

      Hey Bimmer, what did the Dodge brothers ever do to you? And why does everybody always pick on Dodge? The Journey has been a great car for me and my family.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “Volkswagen somehow figured that after breaking customer trust with a deception-laced scandal and putting the fate of 480,000 vehicles in limbo for months, asking repeat buyers to buy another vehicle was a killer idea. A sure-fire, bona fide hit of a marketing ploy.”

    That’s your analysis? Seriously?

    Try using Occam’s razor next time. Marketing to existing customers is normal. Not all of those customers are inclined to hate the company or are particularly opinionated about the emissions scandal.

    Direct mail campaigns generally have low conversion rates, and I suspect that VW knows that from direct experience, so it is highly unlikely that the company is expecting the miracles that you claim that it is expecting. But that doesn’t make direct mail not worth doing. For one thing, the response rate will provide an indication of how well the other efforts are working.

    • 0 avatar
      ihbase

      It is also possible that VAG had previously committed to a certain marketing expenditure to the dealers’ association- and that obligation was due without regard for where things stood with the emissions settlement. Therefore the direct mail campaign, while inadequate from the perspective of a TDI owner suffering damages, may be a reasonable step in light of other obligations the company may have. I am not defending VW, but it seems possible that a large enterprise many have obligations to other parties and other market interests beyond their (rightfully disgruntled) existing TDI customers. I imagine that the direct-mail campaign may have been positively received by a non-TDI owner somewhere.

      Perhaps VW could have been more sophisticated in their direct mail efforts by sending one publication to non-TDI owners (ignoring the scandal) and a different publication (stating that the company is working on a settlement plan) to existing TDI owners.

      -Michael

  • avatar
    runs_on_h8raide

    I see VW has hired the same advisors Hillary Clinton uses.

  • avatar
    Southerner

    If I owned one of these scandalous cars what would be my incentive to get rid of it? Each copy on the road flips and flaps the giant bird to and at EPA, no? I call that a win. And I want to buy one to do just that. The revenuers would have to pry it from my cold, dead hands to “fix” it.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    You aren’t going to an answer about the TDi solution for a while. So don’t hold your breath.

    VW has until late June to submit a proposed solution.

    If they managed to do that, then I think in the best circumstances, a final resolution will be agreed to in August and deployed starting in Sept.

    But I think in reality this is going to drag out for a very long time. I own a TDi and I don’t expect to get an answer until 2017 at the earliest.

    My wife has been bugging me about what I am going to do. My 2012 Passat has over 100k on the clock, so I reckon that if VW is ordered to buy it back, then worst case they will look at my miles and give me scrap value, perhaps $5.

    I am betting that it doesn’t come to that. She told me that if that is how it pans out then we will sue them.

    I told her that our Passat has been, and continues to be, a great car for us. So until they force me to give it up, I will hold on to it.

    In other words, my strategy is to ride this one all the way in to the ground and deal with the fall out after I find out what that is.

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