Despite a year-end shuffle that left Volkswagen of America with a new CEO and marketing boss, don't expect VW to change its brand identity.
So says Vinay Shahani, 39, who was hired from Nissan in November to help VW, the No. 1 car brand in Europe, hit the right notes in its quest to become a Tier 1 brand in the United States.
In an interview last week, Shahani said he does not intend to mess with the advertising formula that VW refined under his predecessor, Tim Mahoney. That formula produced such hits as the 2011 Super Bowl spot "The Force," starring a child dressed as Darth Vader. Shahani calls them "humorous, simple, cute human stories," and he likes them.
"I don't plan to change the voice," he told Automotive News in his first interview since becoming vice president of VW brand marketing. "I wouldn't want to. That's something that's been very well established for quite some time."
That might not sit well with VW's U.S. dealers, who are pushing Shahani for more sales-oriented marketing. VW brand sales fell 7 percent in 2013, a disappointing setback after the marque doubled U.S. sales from 2009 to 2012. Dealers say VW ads should be issuing "calls to action" -- that is, messages that give consumers a reason to buy now.
"That's the message that we as a council have been trying to send to VW," says Jimmy Ellis, an Atlanta dealer with three VW stores and chairman of the Volkswagen National Dealer Advisory Council. "It's not that the creative has been bad. It's just that we need to evolve for the current conditions that we're in."