By on August 15, 2019

Image: VW

One hopes, anyway. While marketing won’t save you from a roadside breakdown (it might, in a roundabout way, get you into that situation), it nonetheless exists on the periphery of the automotive realm, subtly impacting sales. If a campaign is successful, the impact might be more than subtle. If it’s bad, the automaker is suddenly open to jokes and criticism.

Then the PR types in the comms department go to work.

One company that’s seen plenty of action in both departments in the recent past is Volkswagen. If you’re unfamiliar with this obscure German brand, you may remember it as the company selling “clean diesel” cars with fantastic fuel economy a number of years back. With that scandal now fading in the rear-view, the effort to rebrand the company as a receptive steward of the earth is well underway. And the man who’ll lead that charge in America is Saad Chehab, former communications dude for Kia Motors America.

Chehab, 52, who left Kia in June, has appeared at VW of America as the brand’s senior vice-president of marketing. Before his stint at Kia, Chebab held the position of president and CEO of the Chrysler brand.

It was during his time at Chrysler that Chehad, prodded by former Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne, came up with the idea to tie rapper Eminem (then a recording artist and not a virtual recluse) with the sort-of new Chrysler 200, all set against a prideful Detroit backdrop. You recall the “Imported from Detroit” Super Bowl commercial, right?

Saad’s your guy.

Image: VW

Now, the exec will attempt to distance VW from its recent role as massive lawbreaker and polluter extraordinaire while affixing a green halo over the brand. Or will he? While it would make sense to craft a whole new image for the automaker (something which will likely occur) given that there’s a crop of electric vehicles inbound, a recent commercial from the brand laid bare the company’s wrongdoings. So unexpected was the ad, we wrote about it here. It was brave and manipulative at the same time.

With Chehab hanging his name outside the office door on August 19th, we await to see what marketing coup the new arrival crafts for the brand. As for VW itself, the automaker fueled its U.S. comeback with a brace of crossovers (one new, the other larger and improved) and a beefier yet still cheap Jetta.

As other automakers shed sales in the big volume chill, VW is reclaiming lost ground. Through the end of July, the brand recorded a 6.1 percent sales gain in the United States, with the Jetta posting a 43 percent YTD gain. The midsize Atlas posted a 31 percent hike, with the Tiguan not far behind it at 25 percent.

[Images: Volkswagen of America]

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7 Comments on “Volkswagen Hires a Marketing Chief to Watch...”

  • avatar

    Don’t know about all of this, but I will say that my most recent experience with buying a VW (yes, I bought one…a used 2014 Jetta Sportwagen. Diesel. Manual) has been, bar none, the absolute best buying experience ever. Although I purchased perhaps the cheapest vehicle on the lot, they’ve treated me like royalty and have addressed any issues I’ve had with grace and expedience. When I bought the car, they replaced both bumper caps and had them repainted (the rear cap had some damage from a back-up accident). A few days later, noticed that the front respray hadn’t set properly and exhibited a few chips. I took it back to the dealership here in Huntsville and they agreed to fix it. At their cost. And they gave me a 2018 GTI as a loaner while the fix was done. Counter that to the absolutely horrid tales of when I bought a 2017 Chevy Cruze last year (with 25k on it) from the local Chevy dealer and wound up having it sit on their lot for 7 or 8 weeks straight before the massive electrical and drivetrain repairs were done.
    VW might have global issues as far as image goes. And maybe I’m a fool for buying the Jetta SW. But so far, the car has been an absolute joy to drive and the local dealer support has been nothing short of phenomenal. Baby steps, but at least here in Alabama, they are working to improve their reputation for the better.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I bought that same car, a 2014 Jetta SportWagen, but new. It was a dealership in uptown Dallas, a few hours away from home. It was my first ever new car purchase, but they treated me excellently, helped me secure special student financing, and had everything ready to go when I arrived in Dallas. At the time, the store was Autonation Volkswagen Park Cities; I’m not sure who owns it now.

      Mine was a TDI DSG w/Pano Sunroof model, which was mid-level for the diesel.

      • 0 avatar

        Kyree, mine has the pano roof, as well. I’m actually quite surprised at how much I like it, even with the fake leather (which has held up better than many genuine leather interiors I’ve had, and does well against pet hair!). The torque is plentiful and I prefer the fact that the car is not overdesigned (both exterior and interior) as far as styling goes. We’ll see how it does longevity-wise, but it’s comfortable and reasonably fun to drive. I just couldn’t pass on a stickshift wagon, even if it isn’t brown!

  • avatar

    How about they don’t cut back the generous warranty they offered for 2019.

  • avatar

    I certainly hope VW has some better TV commercials in the future. Most of what they have had the last few years have been horrible, almost Chrysler Pacifica horrible. This guy is more recently from Kia? Did he do the Soul ads with the hamsters? Gah!

    Dealer experience is a different portfolio. VW dealers used to have a dreadful reputation, but the treatment I have received from the dealer in Ann Arbor where I have my 2014 Jetta wagon (gas) serviced has been excellent.

  • avatar

    The VW dealer in the Buffalo area where I bought my 2011 GTI has been above average – not perfect, but good, and pretty responsive.

    The new GTI is still the class of that class, and while VW was widely and justly criticized for missing the SUV boat, the new Tiguan and the Atlas have been very well received.

    Also, they continue with tasteful, non-polarizing styling that ages well…compare my GTI’s looks with the grinning-idiot 2011 Mazda 3…or their new SUVs with any Toyota SUV.

  • avatar

    “It was during his time at Chrysler that Chehad, prodded by former Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne, came up with the idea to tie rapper Eminem (then a recording artist and not a virtual recluse) with the sort-of new Chrysler 200, all set against a prideful Detroit backdrop. You recall the “Imported from Detroit” Super Bowl commercial, right?”

    I was at a big Super Bowl party when that commercial came on. People laughed. My Latvian friend asked if Chrysler was suggesting that their car was the new Contour, a reference to a hooptie Eminem used to conjure the destitute life of a tweeker in one of his ‘songs.’

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