It would appear that Volkswagen has weathered the storm of their recent scandal, thanks in no small part to the apparent virtue of American consumers’ ability to forgive.
Despite being exposed as cheats on their diesel emissions tests, which scientists are predicting will lead to the premature death of dozens of Americans, the German automobile company has reported a growth in their sales in American markets. That was a 0.24 percent growth, to be exact, in October 2015, in comparison to October of last year, the company announced in a press release. Of course less than one quarter of one percent is not a huge sum, especially when looking at the 7.8 percent of growth that was experience in October 2014, but nevertheless growth is growth, and Volkswagen will take what they can get.
This figure has an even larger impact when considering August’s -8.10 percent slump in sales, which means that the company is actually in a better state now than when the scandal broke, in mid-September. In fact, the current sales numbers begin to soar when looking at some individual vehicles. The Tiguan, for example, had its best month since going into production, entering the books at 167.1 percent sales growth.
Of course, Volkswagen did not simply take the bad publicity on the chin when news of their emissions test cheating hit the public. In the wake of the scandal, they have been offering potential customers significant discounts to sway those which might care for the environment a little more than driving off in a new VW. In fact, some of these discounts went as high as $7,000.
Of course this is all in response to the discovery of “defeat devices” found installed in Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles in September. These devices limit the pollution a vehicle puts out only when an emission test is being conducted, reports the EPA following their investigation into the matter. This allowed the company to circumvent clean air regulations. For the past seven years, they found that cars with these devices have been emitting up to 4 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides.
Clearly this did not sit well with the public, or at least the environmentally conscience members. Market analysts from around the world predicted the downfall of Volkswagen, saying that the company’s public image has forever been scarred. No one, however, predicted the mercy of the consumers.
What caused that mercy though? Why are so many Americans still buying cars from the company that damaged their environment and shortened their life? Well the answer, according to observers, might be apathy. It’s easy to assume that once a producer’s wrong-doing is exposed to the public, consumers would simply stop buying their products and give their money to a different one, especially in a market with as many options as the car market. This theory, however, assumes that people care, and looking at Volkswagen’s sales numbers, it’s clear Americans don’t. Especially not when a $7,000 discount is being thrown around.
This apathetic explanation may seem cynical, but the evidence is there to support it. For example, studies have shown that in times of falling gas prices, sales of SUVs increase, despite their tendency to guzzle gas, no matter how much it costs.
Fortunately for Volkswagen, they don’t need to care about whether it is brand loyalty, environmental ambivalence, or just the simplicity of a good deal that they can thank for their growth in sales. What they have is a second chance, and given that those don’t always come, they are going to take what they can get.