Since my visit to the New York auto show in April I have been wondering about the Volkswagen brand positioning here in the USA. In Europe Volkswagen is really positioned as the peoples car and as such their visual identity and communication reflects that.
Here in the USA it has been different and VW has been making some steps a long the way. Take a look at the examples below:
Yes, Volkswagen has made progress from the tough looking old website design to the more approachable current design but it still feels Volkswagen is a bit lost.
It is lost in its positioning against Audi, the other brand in the Volkswagen group.
In order to be the people car it should not out win Audi in webpage design. It should also not out win Audi either in big events like the New York Autoshow. It should never out win Audi.
What should Volkswagen do? It is of course up to the Volkswagen Group to figure out how to play with Audi, VW and Porsche in their brand portfolio but it is clear that there is some clear overlap at the moment. That is bad, as it will decrease distinctiveness of these wonderful brands against competition. My recommendation would be to bring much more focus on what made Volkswagen big: being the people car and Das Auto! There is a lot to play with when you think of a car for the people. That is, The Car for The People!
European car brands are pushing Diesel to the US market. Audi is however taking a very active role. Already at the New York International auto show in February I saw diesel versions of some of the popular models. From there it continued with a campaign site on audiusa.com and last weekend I saw at night an Audi Q7 TDI parked in the hot New York meatpacking district. The car had “TDI” stickers all over so it was clearly there to spark interest.
The whole “bringing Diesel to America” exercise is very interesting as it requires US citizens to change their perception of Diesel to succeed. Here is how Audi is doing it.
Step 1: fight the negative perception of Diesel by focussing on:
Take away the no power perception: “I’ve always thought that diesels were sluggish and slow” (using a TDI at LeMans was a really cool!)
Take away the being dirty perception: “I thought diesel engines were noisy and dirty“
Step 2: add a whole bunch of feel good messages focussing on the environment and social responsibility:
“I wish there was an easy way to make better use of our resources” (example)
“I wish we had more stability when it came to the cost and supply of fuel”
“I’m ready to do my part to reduce global warming”
“I hope the U.S. can begin to move towards a more sustainable future”
Will it work? I think so. It has been in the works for some time. In 2006 American refiners were for the first time pumping “clean diesel”. Now 3 years later we see the first serious cars hitting the market. I would give it still another three to five years for the infrastructure to build up but after that Americans will drive like Europeans: in the premium/ high end segment on clean diesel.