To say that response to Volkswagen’s $1,000 gift card offer has been underwhelming is probably the overstatement of the day. According to Automotive News today, the automaker has launched a major newspaper advertising campaign today aimed at showing the world that the company is “working to make things right.” Created by VW’s creative agency, Deutsch L.A., the ads were scheduled to appear in 30 newspapers that included USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The automaker also plans digital banner ads.
The industry’s top trade paper, Automotive News, said today that the VW campaign has been “met with a mixed reaction.” Some VW diesel owners have turned to social media to complain about what they “believed to be a lowball offer given the depreciation” hit that their cars have taken since the Dieselgate scandal broke in September. Others took a more cautious tone. Some, such as the TDIClub.com, said they would take the take the VW offer and then wait, possibly not having their vehicles repaired at all for fear the fix would ruin either performance or fuel economy. The trade paper implied that VW owner sentiments were decidedly neutral. VW is working on a fix for the 11 million vehicles impacted by Dieselgate, the scandal.
Dieselgate surfaced in September when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered the recall of 420,000 VW TDI diesels. The federal agency learned from researchers and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) of a potential problem with VW’s about the time that the automaker came forth to confirm what they already knew. The recall was issued then. Within days, new diesel sales were stopped and the automaker withdrew its request for certification of its 2016 diesel models.
In the meantime, VW announced that as many as 11 million vehicles worldwide were affected by the emissions scandal. At the heart of the scandal was scamware that was installed on VW diesels equipped with the 2-liter engine, first developed around 2007, the EA189. Apparently, the engineering team found that the new, at that time, diesel motor couldn’t meet the stricter emissions standards so somewhere along the line special software was installed that enabled a software switch. The program was told to look for certain telltales that indicated a vehicle was under test. If the software determined that a test was underway, the motor was switched into test mode. In test mode, the vehicle easily passed emissions standards. As soon as the test was over, the engine reverted to normal mode whereby vehicle performed better and achieved better mileage, at the expense of emissions. On some models, the emissions level was as much a 40 times higher than the standard. VW is currently conducting an internal probe, trying to determine who was responsible for introducing the software switch. It has been found on Audi and VW vehicles. It may have also been used on Skoda and Seat models. Audi, Skoda and Seat are subsidiaries of VW.
Today’s ad, which features a statement by VW of American Chief Michael Horn, apologizes again for the scandal. In the ad, Horn tells consumers “over the past several weeks, we’ve apologized to you, our loyal customers, about the 2.0L VW diesel emissions issue.” He asked customers “for your continued patience.”
The ad comes at a time when VW is under increasing pressure to do something for diesel owners. With little information coming from the corporation’s Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters, regarding a fix, Automotive News said, VW diesel values have dropped like a stone, leaving owners with a dilemma.