Tom McMenamin, chairman of the Volkswagen National Dealer Advisory Council, was unavailable for comment. But his predecessor, John Luciano, thought the stunt was harmless and raised awareness of the ID4, which is now rolling into dealerships from Germany. Luciano went so far as to make "Voltswagen" T-shirts for his staff at Street Volkswagen of Amarillo in Texas.
VW itself tweeted that the stunt "got the whole world buzzing," and that "people talking about electric driving and our ID4 can only be a good thing."
Karen Doyne, a crisis communications expert at Doyne Strategies, told Ad Age that "VW's goal clearly was to create millions of headlines and posts linking its brands to electric cars, and it worked. Mission accomplished." She said consumers wouldn't find VW's actions offensive or be "turned off" by them.
Yet the decision to proceed with the Voltswagen stunt ran counter to years of claims that the automaker's history of intentional falsehoods was in the past. VW's long-term goal in the U.S. is to recapture the 5 percent market share it had in 1970, and Keogh said the key to that was restoring the brand's integrity and credibility.
"The absolute bedrock of that 5 points of share and the bedrock of those 570,000 units back then was, first and foremost, you need to be a well-liked and a well-trusted brand," he told Automotive News for a story nearly 11 months ago.
Last August — in an interview for an article on the five-year anniversary of the diesel emissions crisis — Keogh said VW had been transformed by what remains the costliest scandal in industry history.
"My point on this, and I've been clear on this from day one, we're not going to win [customers] back with, you know, a token press release or a news article in Automotive News," he said at the time. "What's going to win them back is exactly what we've been doing; it's sort of like a relationship, day in and day out, proving to [customers] that we're a good company, proving to them that we're doing the right thing, and proving to them that we're going to continue to do that."