By on October 13, 2017

Volkswagen Rain Commercial Screenshot - Image: Volkswagen YoutubeThis commercial is not a circa 1970 follow-up to 1969’s infamous Woodstock Music & Art Fair. It’s not a the result of marketers in the 1980s looking back 10 or 15 years. It’s not Volkswagen’s late-to-the-party retro take on counterculture. No, this is Volkswagen’s People First Warranty commercial from 2017. Today.

It is a wholehearted embrace of Volkswagen’s history. The Microbus. An original Beetle. Hippies.

“I think what’s powerful about it,” Volkswagen of America’s marketing director Greg Tebbutt says, “is we’ve got a heritage story that is unique to us and only we can tell.”

But there’s something conspicuously absent from the 60-second “Rain” spot.

Volkswagen launched its first three-row utility vehicle, the Atlas, in May of this year. The company’s second-generation Tiguan arrived in the United States in July. Those were the two vehicles to institute Volkswagen’s six-year, 72,000-mile comprehensive warranty, a warranty that was extended across the model lineup in late September.

The Volkswagen Jetta is the brand’s best-selling model in the U.S. market. Sales of the Volkswagen Golf family are up 35 percent in a shrinking market thanks to the success of the Golf’s two-pronged wagon approach. Beetle sales are rising, too.

None of those cars make an appearance in Volkswagen’s “Rain” commercial.

In fact, no new vehicle makes an appearance in Volkswagen’s “Rain” commercial.

“I don’t think there are many manufacturers that would do a 60-second commercial without showing any new cars,” Tebbutt tells Automotive News. But Volkswagen, it’s fair to say, is not Hyundai. Volkswagen has a past on which it can derive strength. Therefore Volkswagen links its warranty — perceived in the consumer’s mind as “standing behind its products” — with pristine editions of beloved older models rather than a bevy of current vehicles that were and are indelibly linked with emissions fraud.

Is the newly expanded warranty a direct response to the public’s perception of Volkswagen post-scandal? Volkswagen’s self-inflicted diesel emissions wounds oozed forth in September 2015, following periods of steep decline. By 2016, a record year for the American auto industry but Volkswagen’s fourth consecutive year of decline, Volkswagen of America sales had plunged 26 percent over a four-year span. Volkswagen sold 115,185 fewer vehicles last year than in 2012.

“There was obviously damage to the brand, but certainly the brand has recovered from a sales perspective,” Tebbutt says, suggesting that the warranty is just a “shot in our arm” to get to the next level. While Volkswagen long since gave up on the idea of generating 800,000 annual U.S. sales by 2018, the brand wants to own 5 percent of the U.S. market by 2020. Volkswagen’s current U.S. market share is a tick below 2 percent.

But wait a second, did he say Volkswagen is recovered from a sales perspective? That must depend on what your definition of recovered is. Volkswagen sold 438,133 vehicles in 2012 and is on track in 2017 to sell 438,133 352,300 vehicles. That’s fewer even than Volkswagen managed in 2014, two years into the brand’s steep decline.

Recovered? Volkswagen reported 389,237 sales from the heart of its lineup in 2012: Jetta, Passat, Golf, Beetle, and Tiguan. Those models are on track for fewer than 320,000 sales in 2017, an 18-percent drop.

Recovered? Even with the Atlas helping out, Volkswagen sold a total of 32,112 vehicles in September 2017. That’s down 13-percent compared with September 2012, resulting in 2.1 percent market share, not the 3.1 percent the brand achieved at this date on the calendar five years ago.

Recovered? Sure, if you’re comparing this year’s Volkswagen of America sales results with disastrous results from the last two years.

Warranty decisions like the one Volkswagen has taken will, however, provide the shot in the arm Volkswagen is looking for, particularly now that Volkswagen is beginning to offer the kind of SUV lineup American consumers are looking for: a big Atlas, an enlarged Tiguan, and an affordable Tiguan Limited. Thus, while the company remains closely linked in the minds of consumers with the diesel cheating, perhaps celebrating the glories of yesteryear isn’t such a bad idea.

[Image: Volkswagen/YouTube]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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31 Comments on “What’s Missing In Volkswagen’s New “Rain” Warranty Commercial?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Careful you’ll remind everyone what attracted them to your cars in the first place and then realize none of those qualities exist in your current lineup.

    (FYI the same would be said of GM if they gave us a retrospective of their hits of the 50s and 60s as a commercial.)

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      I seem to remember a commercial for GM a decade or more ago that showed various GM products over the years. I only remember it because they showed a Chevette, and wondered why anyone would want to remind people of it…

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Given that they likely wouldn’t be brave enough to put Oldsmobile, Pontaic, Saturn, or Hummer in there if the commercial was made today – it would be a pretty short spot. ;-)

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Well Hyundai might try the same tactic. I can’t think of more fitting vehicles for a warranty commercial thatn a Pony circa 1986 or the follow up Excel!

  • avatar
    TW5

    It least Volkswagen has a marketing exec who understands the legacy and identity of the brand in the US. Unfortunately, “Rain” over-leverages the legacy in potentially harmful ways. It’s like returning to civilization from the wilderness and getting a cup of chewy, black coffee. Yeah, it’s great to have coffee and caffeine for the first time in a week, but the concentration of the coffee is a shock to your system, and the novelty soon wears off. This sort of weapons-grade hippie-ism is not a viable strategy going forward, though I do appreciate the richness created by the ad producers and cinematographers.

    VW also needs to focus on their product so their is some alignment between consumer culture and the product. Tech-laden, unreliable vehicles have nothing to do with counterculture. The basic construction and design isn’t particularly unique anymore either.

  • avatar
    993cc

    I hope VW knows that offering the warrantee is only a small part of the task.

    If customers receive treatment like that of the worst VW “stealership” stories, (“it’s your fault for failing to properly maintain the sensor/window lift/brake disk/coil pack, so it’s not covered”), if VW doesn’t use information gathered from warrantee repairs to improve parts mid-production cycle, If VW doesn’t back up their dealers to provide a positive customer experience, this will only result in reinforcing the reputation of VW as a brand that you drop as soon as it’s off warrantee.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      I’ve bought numerous new cars of different makes and different dealers and have found warranty service to be a myth. In virtually every case, a standard list of excuses has been used to avoid filling a precious service bay with a warranty issue, from “They all do that,” and “It’s within factory specs, there’s nothing we can do,” to “the tech couldn’t replicate the problem” (until I take him with me for a short ride), or “You caused the issue” (no matter how unlikely). Or, they acknowledge the problem, take the car in, return the car as “fixed,” but with the same issue still evident, again-and-again. I’ve had the best reliability with Toyotas, and that’s what I’ll stay with, for the duration, because I consider warranties to be worthless, unless you somehow happen to be familiar with a particularly out-of-the-ordinary, ethical dealer.

  • avatar

    IF they gave us the Scirocco WE might buy one.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    I can’t imagine a single brand that has less in common with it’s celebrated heritage than VW.

  • avatar

    What’s missing from the ad is some SEX CAR like they usually do.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    ugh vw has been marketing this hippie shit my entire life and guess what. NOBODY UNDER THE AGE OF 70 CARES ABOUT YOUR MARKETED MADE UP HIPPIE HERATIGE!!! NOBODY BUYING YOUR PRODUCTS TODAY WAS ALIVE IN THAT PERIOD! IF YOU’RE GONNA GO FOR NOSTALGA MARKET 80S GTI OR VR6 ENGINE NOSTALGA OR SOROCCO!!! GEZ!!!

    AND WAKE UP CALL ALL THE OLD HIPPIE BOOMERS BUY SUBARUS NOW BECAUSE IT’S EASIER FOR THEIR ARTHRITIS FILLED HIPS TO GET IN AND OUT OF THEM. YOU’VE BEEN TRYING 60S NOSTALGA MARKETING FOR DECADES AND IT HAS NEVER WORKED!

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    What 993cc said.

  • avatar
    Fred

    As an old Beetle driving hippy I can recognize a bs pandering ad a mile away.

  • avatar
    claytori

    As a former VW-phile who sold his 2nd Scirocco in 1987 (2 beetles, 1 van), I still never refer to VW’s “Warranty” without making the finger gestures associated with quotation marks. Little has changed. “You broke our beauuutiful car!” comes to mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      My family’s first new car purchase in my lifetime (the 76 Carolla was purchased a few months before I arrived as the Plymouth Duster was deemed not reliable enough to shuttle around infant me) was an 85 Jetta. I would learn to drive in it so it has a special place for me but my memories of dealership interaction back your claims up and it was a fairly miserable vehicle right up until 1993 when it was traded for 300 bucks towards a new Explorer.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    The best thing about VW’s is that they’re no longer 60’s VW’s since Audi taught them how to build modern stylish safe fwd cars.
    And who is sitting around waiting to buy a VW if only the warranty were a tiny bit longer?!
    Get lost VW!

  • avatar

    What that BS about Woodstock supposed to mean? VW now is targeting 70-80 years olds? Even I do not remember and do not care about Woodstock and always considered hippies as bums and losers did not find anything cool about them. No thank you, give me 21st century Tesla please.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Millennials are to young to have any cash yet, though they are getting there. The boomers are by in large too old to give a damn anymore. It would seem that advertisers, much like those 2 generations forget there is this whole generation between them (X) that is fairly flush with cash comparitively speaking and still young enough to be nostalgic. Ford gets it…hence the big block 5.0 attached to the side of the Mustang. Buts it’s cool VW, go after my parents. If you really want to sell my Dad a car though know that he once owned a Beetle and an air cooled 912, but what he really wants now is a Venza and was dismayed they killed it. He is pretty happy with his Frontier though which he sees as a really modern truck. Now I’m off to quench my nostalgia. Anyone know where I can score a clean first gen Saturn?

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      And Mom really likes her 04ish Highlander and as it only has 40k miles it is likely to last as long as she does. She is a former Beetle owner too but hers had some sort of device that engaged the clutch when you touched the shift knob that apparently caused her much frustration since it often broke. Maybe that is the nostalgia angle for them. “Remember that crappy overcomplicated transmission from your beetle? We’ll wait til’ you get a load of the new dct.”

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        It was a “manumatic” or “autostick” or a “semiautomatic” or whatever you want to call it:

        https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/old-school-vw-manumatic/14251/page1/

        You still had to do the shifting but there was no clutch pedal. Touching the shift lever (intentionally or accidentally) would depress the clutch by some sort of vacuum booster setup. I think there might have been a torque converter too so you could leave the car in gear at lights without stalling.

        Probably it was less reliable than a manual and more reliable than a full automatic.


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