Will anything ever get Volkswagen out of the scandalous pit it has thrown itself into?
Yes. One thing will for sure: -- cash. A lot of cash.
And yes, of course there is flaming outrage around the world. Protesters standing outside the company’s front gate in Germany, for example, holding up giant signs of a lying Pinocchio to shame the surviving executives.
Even with that -- even with the gauntlet of government whippings it faces, and the bloodletting it must endure in the form of brand-piercing class-action lawsuits for the next decade -- even with all that, Volkswagen can be assured that a mountain of cash will do wonders for making it all go away.
And I mean cash on the hood.
Volkswagen is sometimes slow to believe what Americans tell it.
As in, “We would like to buy a crossover.” After all, what do Americans know about Volkswagen? The U.S. market for Volkswagen is cold and begrudging. So how could Americans presume to advise?
But think of the cash.
Big, deep rebates. Embarrassing discounts. Factory incentives with a smile, even as industry wags weep from the sidelines that so much incentives will endanger VW’s brand integrity.
At this particular moment, what brand integrity?
It’s a nothing-to-lose proposition.
Think of Lee Iacocca on TV, circa 1980, promising checks to anybody who would buy a Chrysler. Iacocca knew his vehicles had quality problems. He even paid wary consumers $50 to simply come test drive them. Or buy one, he challenged them, and if you don’t like it, bring it back for a refund. (Minus $100 for depreciation.)
The polite word for it is “incentive.” It could be called a bribe. It was also called by some a cash “giveaway.”
But whatever -- it worked for Iacocca. Even when customers doubted the quality of his products, they took the money and the car and ran.
Who can argue with a really good deal? When it comes to car buying, big flashy rebates have a magical way of making people forget the news and run down to their local showrooms.
What if deep price discounts made buyers so satisfied with their new Volkswagens that they lifted the automaker’s satisfaction scores in the midst of all this? What if a resulting surge in demand popped onto the industry sales scoreboard in the middle of this drama?
What if, despite all the serious trouble the automaker faces, consumers suddenly decided that they really kind of like Volkswagen?