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VW Oz customers pragmatic about crisis

Troubled waters: Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Michael Bartsch says he is happy with the company's approach to managing the diesel emissions scandal.

Achieving trust through action will weather emissions scandal in Oz: Bartsch

18 Dec 2015

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia managing director Michael Bartsch said he believes the brand will recover from the diesel emissions cheating issues in this country on the back of transparent action and response.

Pointing to continuing sales and market share growth during the first two full months since the scandal broke in mid-September, the newly installed MD said that Australian consumers are generally willing to listen to reason and respect positive action.

“I want to make this perfectly clear firstly that I do not want to downplay that we’ve made a mistake,” Mr Bartsch told GoAuto at the launch of the T6 and Caddy models in Sydney. “Our company has made an error, and they’re still trying to get to the bottom of it.

“But I think our team’s approach to it is that it happens to the best of families, and now we’re trying to resolve it, and I think one of the most interesting things coming back to Australia after being out of the country for 11 years is, again, seeing how Australians are different Australians are pretty pragmatic on the whole.

“If they sense that you’re not running away from it, you’ve been open and frank about the problem, and they trust that you will fix it and do what you say, then I think most people will give you a go. I’d say that’s the way it’s been in Australia.”

Mr Bartsch added that only a fraction of the number of Volkswagens offered in the Australian market are under the diesel emissions cloud, and that once the issue is resolved, consumers will still be left with the best that the brand can deliver.

“You have to put it in context. Only seven per cent of the total available volume that we had in the planning here is affected by the emissions issue with the diesels – the 2.0-litre and the 1.6 – so 93 per cent of our models are unaffected,” he said.

“Once they are out of the market, people still look at the price point of our vehicles, they look at the build integrity and quality compared to the Japanese and Korean (makers), and the technology that’s in the cars – the look, feel, those tactile elements – the cars are still absolutely at the top of their segment.

“We’ve had people ring up saying 'do I really have to fix my car? I like it just the way it is.'.”

Year-to-date to the end of November, Volkswagen sales are up 11 per cent over the corresponding 2014 period, to 55,767 units compared with just over 50,000 units. This is despite the absence of volume diesels such as the Golf, Passat, and Caddy, which fall under the stop-sale implementation issued in October.

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