When you buy a new car, logic and rational decision making are suspended. Automobile manufacturers have understood for years that car buying is an emotional decision. Oh, I know we would all like to think that we use our noggins when we purchase a car but let’s face facts. Brand influences our choice.
All cars have tires, engines, roofs, boots (trunks in the US), steering wheels, seats doors and paint. They all are capable of taking us places and, unlike just about anything else we can think of, have actually become better than they were 25 years ago. They are built better and last longer.
We are invested in our cars. Even folks like myself , who claim not care to about the car they drive, have brand identification. Why do I drive a BMW when I claim I am unimpressed with automobiles? I don’t care if you drive a Chevrolet, BMW or a Toyota, we all like our new cars. When they get their first dent or scratch, it feels like it has happened to ourselves personally. In brand parlance, that is exactly what has happened.
The impact of the VW recall.
Recalls? They happen all the time. We expect the occasional mistake in design and forgive the Toyotas of the world for a few mishaps. None of us feel the personal pain beyond inconvenience of a product recall. Even unfixable design flaws can be forgiven. But what happens when a brand manipulates us through deliberate deceit? Well, the damage may well be permanent.
Volkswagen’s stock has taken a huge hit in the past week with the VW recall over faking emissions tests and a cynic might translate that into a buying opportunity. I don’t believe it is. I think we may be looking at free fall of a once great brand that has thrown itself on the rocks. The sin is personal and this is the most interesting part. Faking emissions does not damage us personally. It’s not as if you bought the car because of its track record in emissions. It does not threaten your immediate health that way defective breaks or uncontrolled acceleration does.
The VW recall tells us that folks who buy the brand are liars. I say this because car brands are an extension of our personal brands. The VW recall has given even the most died-in-the-wool VW aficionado reason to pause and contemplate the emotional cost of deliberate deceit.
Goodbye, Beetle. So long VW Bus. Nice knowing you Rabbit. See ya Jetta.