Each of the nine brands in the Volkswagen Group has a distinctive image with which it excites millions of customers every year. In 2008, we further sharpened the profiles of our brands and improved the performance of our sales force.
Brand diversity in the Volkswagen Group
With its “Volkswagen – Das Auto” slogan, the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand combines the three core values: “innovative”, “providing enduring value” and “responsible”. Year after year, millions of customers all around the world place their trust in this brand profile, which stands for quality and reliability made in Germany. This is the reason global brand management activities will continue to revolve around their preferences. The goal of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand is to become the most innovative volume manufacturer with the best quality in its specific classes in the medium to long term. Innovations that are oriented on customer requirements as well as affordable will be the primary focus. Volkswagen shows that it is living up to this claim through the success of and the awards it has received for its TDI and TSI engines, the direct shift gearbox and the BlueMotion models. Blue TDI, the new environmental technology that already complies with the Euro 6 standard due to come into effect in 2014, can now be added to the list of successes. Yet it is not only new product technologies that reflect the consistent, successful implementation of the brand image – in the reporting period, Volkswagen secured the ÖkoGlobe 2008 award for the most innovative and best advertising campaign “Erst wenn ein Auto Innovationen allen zugänglich macht, ist es: Das Auto”.
The theme “Vorsprung durch Technik” made the Audi brand one of the strongest automotive brands in the premium segment. With a brand image centered around sportiness, high quality and progressiveness, Audi is striving to become the market leader in this segment over the medium term. The outstanding acceptance of the Audi models as well as the awards and number one spots it has won in image and brand studies show that Audi is pursuing this objective with determination and has become a premium brand with a high prestige value. Increased use of innovative technology, the large number of new models, careful brand management and a consistent design language are among the factors that have led to its success. According to studies conducted by market research institute TNS, one in eight Germans consider an Audi to be their dream car.
“Simply clever” is the slogan under which the Škoda brand is growing into one of the most dynamic brands in Europe and other markets worldwide. This brand embodies a combination of intelligent concepts for the use of space, providing technically simple yet sophisticated and practical detailed solutions, plus appealing designs and extremely good value for money. Its vehicles, which have received multiple awards for their attractive appearance as well as sophisticated and innovative engineering, ensure that the success story of this brand concept will continue.
The SEAT brand employs the core values “sporty”, “lively” and “design-oriented”. The new Ibiza and Leon models are particularly representative of its brand image. The Ibiza captivates through its design and precision, while the Ibiza SC, a compact sport coupé, exemplifies the core brand value of “sportiness”. Besides its compact models, SEAT will expand its model range upwards in 2009 with the new Exeo saloon. The elegant, dynamic Exeo combines state-of-the-art technology with high quality and also reflects SEAT’s brand values.
In the luxury vehicle segments, Bugatti, Bentley and Lamborghini round off the wide range of Volkswagen Group brands embodying exclusivity, elegance and power.
With a portfolio of vehicles from light commercial vehicles, vans and motor homes through to heavy trucks and buses, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles provides a suitable and high-performance solution for all transport needs.
The consolidation of Scania in 2008 made this the ninth brand in the Volkswagen Group. Guided by the core values of “customer first”, “respect for the individual” and “quality”, the over 100-year-old Swedish company manufactures high-performance trucks and buses that feature highly innovative technology, as well as offering its customers service packages and financial services.
Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty
The satisfaction of our customers with the Group brands is regularly measured in a number of countries with the help of special questionnaires, though when conducting these studies we concentrate primarily on product and service quality. The results are analyzed and assessed in terms of their contribution to target achievement, and appropriate measures for improvement are then developed. In terms of satisfaction with product and service quality, the Audi and Škoda brands occupy a leading position in the core European markets when ranked against competitors. The scores of the other Group brands for overall satisfaction are also on a par with or higher than competitors’ results.
Customer satisfaction provides the basis for customer loyalty. Loyal customers demonstrate their confidence in our brands, and this confidence is clearly reflected in the loyalty figures. Volkswagen was able to maintain brand loyalty in its core European markets at a high level in 2008. Škoda also ranks among the leaders for brand loyalty – as it has done for many years.
Sales structure and sales channels
Constant changes in customer expectations and economic conditions make it necessary for us to design our sales channels actively and continuously optimize sales structures and sales processes. In this way, we increase our profitability along the entire sales chain. One of the Volkswagen Group’s strategic goals is to enhance flexible multichannel management, which develops innovative sales channels, strengthens brand positionings and boosts the attractiveness of brands along with customer satisfaction. The multichannel strategy is designed differently for each brand, depending on the specific customer groups and market segments. However, it always remains within the scope of our defined Group targets.
Key sales business processes
In 2008, we pushed ahead with the optimization and reorganization of sales operations begun in 2007, our primary goal being to improve sales performance and continue to cut costs across all sales levels. The IT systems were standardized further at both the wholesale and retail level, and the number of systems used in Europe was reduced again. The support functions in wholesaling and retailing were consequently streamlined or scaled back and the capacity freed up is then used in the processes that add value.
In our foreign sales companies, we initiated market-specific and cross-brand projects for optimizing business processes. The focus is on using synergies better at all levels of business, increasing efficiency and minimizing costs. This led, for example, to cross-brand service agreements being centralized and standardized. Concepts for optimizing storage and logistics were also developed. The resulting decrease in overheads and improved productivity are helping to increase overall profitability and make the sales system used in the Volkswagen Group more attractive.
Fleet customer business
Volkswagen Group Fleet International, the business unit set up to serve as the central point of contact for the international fleet business, further cemented its presence in the market in 2008. In addition to successful customer acquisitions, the system introduced in 2007 to process international tenders was deployed in other countries. A processing system was also set up for the national fleet customer business that will be gradually rolled out in 2009 at all our importers, starting with the United Kingdom. This system will allow the national fleet customer business to be networked in the future, creating an international platform for the fleet business, which is growing in importance. In line with our Group strategy, we have consciously added countries from the world’s growth regions to our international network.
The resale value of a vehicle is a major factor influencing customer purchase decisions and therefore also determines the competitiveness of our products to a significant extent. The Volkswagen Group’s remarketing strategy helps to ensure that the residual value of our used vehicles remains competitive. As soon as the product development process begins, the Group’s brands take into account factors relevant to the sale of the used car, such as quality, durability, design and equipment features. The brands’ sales policy guarantees a constant supply of used cars without adversely affecting the residual value. Used car programs create the framework for the brands’ contract partners to approach customers effectively and ensure that high quality standards are met in the sale of used vehicles.
Regular customer surveys give us pointers regarding the needs of our customers when buying used vehicles and help us provide a customized range of products and services. In 2008, the Volkswagen Group began to implement the remarketing strategy in the BRIC markets so as to be able to guarantee stable residual values in the growth phase of these key markets. The Group also aims to meet the needs of our contract partners and customers as regards used vehicles in these growth markets.