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On Friday, December 9, the Washington Automotive Press Association held a luncheon at Volkswagen North America’s headquarters in Herndon, Va. A blend of journalists and industry representatives attended to both conclude another year of quality WAPA programming and to hear from VW’s chief of product and marketing, Tim Mahoney.
Following a catered lunch provided by Volkswagen, the group heard from Mahoney on the evolution of VW’s advertising and its brand story. We watched a sampling of TV ads that ranged from the 1950’s to current times. I particularly enjoyed being reminded of the ‘Da Da Da’ commercial VW put out last decade. The NY Times Wheels Blog did a story on it a few years ago, calling it a ‘classic ad’ and linking to the video here. Take a watch and prepare to be transported to the 1990’s – the music and vibe capture the essence of that time period.
Mahoney emphasized that Volkswagen – translated from German as “the people’s car” – was thinking small when there were still fins on other cars. He stressed that the company has always paired simple ideas with a strong impact to position the brand as truly one for everyday consumers. “Everyone deserves a better car,” Mahoney said, reflecting on the German automaker’s accessibility to the European marketplace here in America.
Positioning the VW Brand
It’s all about telling simple human stories for Volkswagen. Mahoney said that they focus on “small moments that turn big” – such as this year’s Super Bowl ad with a boy dressed up as Darth Vader, who magically gets his dad’s new Passat to crank up in the driveway. As we do every year, Be Car Chic and Chris Baccus from automarketingblog.com covered all the automotive Super Bowl commercials, and VW’s ‘The Force’ ad was one of our favorites. In fact, AdWeek recently named the commercial the best of 2011.
But traditional TV advertising isn’t the only way that VW is positioning itself as the brand for all. The car company also does a lot by way of integration, using the Xbox, social networking sites and other technology to reach a wider audience.
In addition to Volkswagen’s creative side, the brand is also racking up honorable mentions and awards for its forward thinking in design, safety and green initiatives. Motor Trend recently named the U.S.-built Passat its 2012 Car of the Year. According to Mahoney, the VW plant in Chatanooga, Tenn. is the only manufacturing facility in the world to earn Platinum LEED certification. And if that’s not enough to wow potential buyers, the nine VW vehicles that made the 2011 IIHS Top Safety Picks list recognition should say something.
Volkswagen is well on its way to growing its market share in the U.S. The company is slated to surpass 300,000 units for the year. With 291,900 units sold to-date, VW is up 25.3 percent in sales over 2010, stomping the industry average of 10 percent year-over-year.
So What’s Next?
The Volkswagen luncheon didn’t end without a discussion of what’s to come. The automaker is, this month, launching its new Golf R, a car that has been long anticipated by enthusiasts. Typical vehicle launches incorporate an onslaught of traditional and new media, but you won’t see any TV spots about the Golf R – this one will be solely digital and mobile said Mahoney.
It’s great to see Volkswagen making such a strong impression on the U.S. market. Let’s just hope that Congress and the Administration can support the diesel offerings VW has yet to bring to America. Automotive die-hards and green-thinkers alike are really anxious to get their hands on some alternative fuel technologies other than hybrid and electric vehicles.
Disclaimer — Volkswagen provided lunch as part of this WAPA event. VW neither offered anything in exchange for this blog post nor did they influence my opinion of the company overall as depicted in this blog post.
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