Opinion: Why Volkswagen needs to reinvent its image

Volkswagen ID 3 prototype - front

A new logo is just the beginning of a brand-wide revamp that seeks to draw a line under Dieselgate

It’s not hyperbole to say the Volkswagen ID 3 will be one of the most significant cars in the history of the company. The first fully electric car developed on Volkswagen’s all-electric MEB platform, it is the spearhead of a hugely ambitious electrification programme across the entire VW Group.

Volkswagen to reveal new logo at Frankfurt motor show

As with the Beetle and first-generation Golf, it represents the start of a new era for Volkswagen. In recognition of that, when the ID 3 is unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show next month, the firm will also undergo a wholesale brand revamp. That starts with a reworked logo, which retains the familiar circular VW design but with a simpler, two-dimensional design. Logo experts would probably describe it as ‘cleaner’, and it looks perfectly nice – particularly with the neat touch that it will appear in slightly different colours (electric cars get a white badge, combustion-engined machines a metal one, and GTI machines will get a red version).

But there’s more than just the new logo. There’s a new design scheme, new colours (light blue joining white and blue as official company colours), a new font, a new ‘sound logo’ and more. There’s even an official new voice: Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson… well, the actress who dubs her films in German, at least.

Say hello, then, to ‘New Volkswagen’.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: there’s a reason why the ‘Old Volkswagen’ brand needed a refresh: Dieselgate. Outlining the development of the brand revamp, Ralf Brandstätter, the firm’s chief operating officer, said the public revelations in late 2015 over how VW had cheated emissions tests were “a volcanic super-eruption that put the future of Volkswagen in doubt”. 

The roots of new Volkswagen came in an off-site management meeting organised by new boss Herbert Diess in October of that year. As Diess explained to Autocar recently, that meeting directly led to VW scrapping a number of planned models, while sketching out the plan for the MEB chassis. It led to VW’s ‘Transform 2025+’ strategy, with a broad company restructuring built around focusing on popular models (read: more SUVs), and heavy investment in electric technology.

A key goal of ‘New Volkswagen’ is to offer “emission-free mobility for all”, with a commitment to achieve net zero CO2 – in both production and vehicle emissions – by 2050. That’s significant: given its size, Volkswagen estimates its manufacturing and products are responsible for around one per cent of total global CO2 production. 

Referring to VW having “learned some hard lessons”, Brandstätter said the company was aware it’s “big size means big responsibility.” As a result, Volkswagen is aiming to lead the way in electric vehicles.

That’s represented by the massive brand revamp: it’s notable the logo was designed to match the ID 3, before the company then imagined how it might look on combustion-engined cars.

The prospect of ‘New Volkswagen’ – heck, any car company – trying to lead the way in environmentally friendly mobility might sound a bit rich, given the still-lingering effects of Dieselgate. And by rebranding it might sound like VW is trying to mask past sins behind a shiny logo, a fresh lick of paint and some soothing words from a German voiceover actress. 

But Volkswagen has been open about how it used what it refers to as ‘the diesel issue’ as a spur for change. The rebranding seems to show the path Volkswagen has taken to get there, rather than trying to hide its mistakes. 

Besides, nice as the new logo and branding it, the most important thing Volkswagen will unveil at Frankfurt remains the ID 3. If the firm achieves its ambitious sales targets for it and the multiple other MEB models that will roll out across the VW Group, it will be a game-changer not just for Volkswagen, but for electric cars. 

Read more

Volkswagen ID 3 2020 review​

Under the skin: Why Volkswagen is bringing back manual gearboxes​

Volkswagen ID Crozz: 2020 electric SUV spotted testing​

Source: Autocar

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