Jon Reay: Could dieselgate be the making of VW?

Time 10:05 am, August 31, 2016

YES, I know – you’re all bored of hearing about the fallout from Volkswagen Group’s emissions scandal.

I am as well, quite frankly, and it seems as though the public is, too. As much fun as the media has had with the saga, it’s becoming pretty apparent that car buyers really aren’t that fussed – with each additional hyperbolic news story seemingly having less impact than the ones that came before it.

It’s a sentiment backed up by dealers. As many as we quiz on the subject, the consensus is the same: It’s very much business as usual across the network. That said, Volkswagen’s image has undoubtedly taken a hit.

But enough of that. I reckon the whole debacle could prove to be a turning point for the group. Things are a-changing in the automotive world, and fast. Car manufacturers have always struggled to keep up with the incredibly fast-paced tech industry, but the second half of this decade is where we’ve really seen the two start to collide. It seems appropriate then that one of the biggest disruptors of the industry has come from a company heavily rooted in technology: Tesla.

While other car manufacturers have been faffing around with electric cars in the background for years, Tesla was one of the first to really throw its weight behind making a range of fully electric cars that weren’t only practical and (relatively) affordable, but also desirable.

There’s nothing to stop any other car manufacturer doing exactly the same thing, of course, but most haven’t; presumably because they think they don’t have to. No group of shareholders is going to approve heavy investment in electric vehicles when conventional ones are selling just fine.

Enter Volkswagen. A brand tarnished by scandal needs to change in order to survive, and what better way of pacifying the ‘ban-the-diesel’ placard-wavers than to start afresh and concentrate on a super-eco-friendly range of cars? Happily, it looks like that’s exactly what it’s decided to do.

Last month, the maker pledged to start adding particulate filters to even (relatively) clean petrol engines from 2017 onwards – and, far more importantly, it now wants to be ‘second to none’ in the industry for electric cars by 2025, by which time it’ll have more than 30 full EVs across the group.

It’s impossible to say how much of this is a direct result of dieselgate, but has VW’s sudden commitment to electrify half its portfolio come out of nowhere? Seems unlikely, doesn’t it?

So there you have it: the scandal that threatened to shake the world’s biggest car maker to the ground could well be the thing that saves its bacon later down the line.

When life gives you lemons… make a range of EVs.

Jon Reay is multimedia manager at Blackball Media

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Staff Writer Jon is one of the Car Dealer team's newest members. You can also find him contributing to AOL Cars.

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