Jürgen Stackmann, Volkswagen: “New Tiguan is start of the new Volkswagen”
Volkswagen had a tumultuous end of 2015, but sales didn't suffer. Nevertheless, “in 2016, we'll focus on winning back trust”, says Jürgen Stackmann, board member for Volkswagen Passenger Cars, and responsible for Sales, Marketing and After Sales.
1. What are your expectations with regard to car sales in Europe in 2016, in general and for the brand Volkswagen?
For 2016, we are expecting for the European car market a similar demand as the previous year. A stable development is anticipated for Western Europe; in Central and Eastern Europe we expect a heterogeneous trend of the total market. Markets such as Poland are developing positively, while in Russia the political and economic insecurities are leading to a negative trend.
The Volkswagen brand has had a good sales result for 2015, even under the known conditions. In 2016, we will continue to focus on winning back customers’ trust, because customer satisfaction is and will remain one of our most valuable assets. At the same time, we are optimizing our global selling power and stepping on the gas with new models. Additionally, we will absolutely focus on conducting a recall that satisfies each customer and considers all partners’ needs.
2. Specialists expect the European and global car market to grow slightly this year. What are your expectations for Europe and what is Volkswagen’s strategy outside of Europe – in China and Asia, Brazil and the US?
We expect that the worldwide demand for new cars will increase in 2016, but probably slower than in the previous year and with different regional developments. While a higher demand is expected for North America and China, the situation in South America and in Russia remains strained.
For Europe, it is our clear target to keep our leadership position in private and fleet business. As a global company, we must handle the situation on world markets, where trends remain mixed. And it is our wish and intention to prepare the brand systematically for a successful future. It is not only about overcoming the current challenge, but above all related to the fundamental realignment of the Volkswagen brand. With the new Tiguan we will freshen up our current portfolio and will be representing the new Volkswagen.
3. How difficult will it be to regain client confidence after the diesel issue?
Recovering the trust of our customers with credible and decisive actions is our core ambition. Therefore the main focus of the communication strategy with our stakeholders is to create the best possible transparency. We are in close contact with our fleet customers to define individual solutions. In terms of the recall, we want to offer our customers the best possible service, free of charge. To complete the recall successfully, we absolutely focus on a clean process, in order to demonstrate our professionality and competence.
Next to this we will inspire our customers with our new products by their quality, security, comfort and efficiency, as we have been doing for years.
4. What will you do to secure residual values of Volkswagen cars on the used-car market?
We are putting all efforts into informing our partners and customers about the recall actions and moreover about the confirmation that after implementing the technical measures there is no detriment to fuel consumption, driving or performance of the vehicle. The feedback of our partners, such as market influencers, also corresponds to the latest internal information, that no impacts on vehicle residual values have been found in the European markets. All current changes of residual values reflect normal product life cycle developments and market movements.
As we do have technical measures confirmed for Europe that will make all affected vehicles legally compliant, we are convinced that there will be no RV risks. This is actually verified by independent bodies, such as DAT (Automobil Treuhand) in Germany, CAP in the UK and L’Argus in France. We therefore do not believe today that there will be any long-term effects on residual values.
Moreover, our used car programme ‘Das Weltauto’ also assures future customers of affected cars that they all have an enhanced warranty, extensive pre-delivery checks and that they meet the highest quality requirements.
5. In what way can Volkswagen further increase its success with regard to corporate fleet sales?
“Fleet sales” is one of the essential pillars of the Volkswagen strategy in Europe. We are already successfully offering a variety of products and we are going to continue to strengthen our tailor‐made solutions, such as service packages and mobility solutions in general.
A very impressive and successful example is the new Passat with an outstanding fleet sales performance in 2015, after just one year on the market. Especially the Passat GTE is absolutely meeting the interest of our fleet customers, when talking about green fleet and efficiency.
Next to delivering our fleet customers the perfectly equipped car, with regards to engine and business packages, we continuously strengthen the professionalization of our dealer network for fleet. This also leads to an excellent support in After Sales. Offering the best service for the driver of the car, the user chooser, increases the customer’s satisfaction and brand loyalty. Besides these factors, we still see an ongoing opportunity for growth in the small fleet area.
6. How will Volkswagen counter the rising success of premium brands in the corporate fleet market, focusing more and more on ‘smaller’ and ‘budget‐friendlier’ models in their range?
We are observing the positioning of premium brands in the respective segments, in which we have established a strong standing of our high-quality products and stable residual values for years.
A successful example is the Golf – Volkswagen’s core model. It is a clear winner in benchmark tests of several magazines, such as the “Best Car 2016” (Auto‐Motor‐Sport Magazine). The Golf is the pioneer in terms of latest vehicle technology and is the most sold car in Europe, for fleet but also for retail. It has become a solid component of car policies of fleet customers for many years. Core assets such as reliability and sustainability, but also the range of variants and engines are convincing the customer in terms of price, performance and quality.
On the other hand, with Volkswagen’s new design DNA, clearly demonstrated by the new Passat and the new Tiguan, we have added a further premium touch to our products without losing our price performance ratio.
7. You’re launching the new Tiguan. In what way is this SUV a strategic important model for Volkswagen and what are its assets for company car drivers?
Following the launch of the Tiguan in 2007, the car has become a big success story and it has received a variety of prizes. And now the next generation is ready for the market launch. We are very proud of having created an SUV that transfers a new design quality to this segment in a progressive and competitive way. With its premium image, the new Tiguan appeals to millions of car drivers as an ideal companion, combining emotional and rational product attributes, for their everyday business and personal lives. The car represents not only an active lifestyle, but also an outstanding performance, safety, comfort and the latest in connectivity – which are important buying considerations for fleet customers too. And the wide range of available options makes the car even more attractive for the fleet car driver.
According to Volkswagen forecasts, the compact segment will increase its global sales to almost nine million units by 2018. For Volkswagen, the new Tiguan marks the beginning of a SUV product offensive. In upcoming years, the brand will be launching other innovative SUVs that are precisely tailored to specific markets in a wide variety of segments worldwide.
8. Connectivity and self‐driving cars are real buzz words in the automotive industry. How will these elements drive the business of car manufacturers in general and Volkswagen specifically?
Digitalization is one of our essential pillars for the New Volkswagen strategy. We consider this as our core competence in terms of developing ourselves from a pure car manufacturer to a data-driven player. A key to reach this goal will be the consistent expansion of our connectivity brand Car‐Net for fleet‐relevant services to connect user-choosers, fleet managers and Volkswagen. In order to do so, it will be necessary to provide swarm intelligence by enabling our cars to exchange relevant data directly and within a split second. Thus we can help fleet managers get all necessary information about their vehicles in order to control and manage their Total Cost of Ownership.
Digital progress is shown by Volkswagen’s concept car BUDD‐e, showcased at CES in Las Vegas this year. Next to the electrical drive mode it is based on the new MEB, the modular electric drive kit. The zero‐emission van takes its energy from a battery that enables a range of 533 kilometers and creates a new human‐machine interface as a pioneering instrument and operating concept. The Active info Display and head unit (infotainment system) merge into an interactive world. Gesture control and the latest connectivity combine to make the car absolutely innovative.
9. What can we expect from Volkswagen with regard to new alternative mobility solutions?
Considering trends like urbanization and sharing culture, we are interested in offering attractive car-sharing concepts. Volkswagen has to extend its mobility concepts to meet the customers’ demands. There are several initiatives and projects developing ideas in place.
The Volkswagen strategy is to provide access to all automobile services via one platform without being the service operator. Offering different car‐on‐demand services, like public or corporate car sharing, will enable a significant growth in sales and market share.