The VW Group can only win back customer trust through its actions, starting with how it fixes the 5.6m cars affected by the NOx emissions scandal globally, according to Jürgen Stackmann, VW's board member in charge of sales, marketing and aftersales.
Asked at the Geneva motor show how long it would take VW’s affected brands to move on from the scandal, Stackmann said: “The indications from similar situations we have studied is 18 months, but it is never possible to know for sure. But we must not focus on that, we must focus on the wake-up call, and show through actions that we can be trusted.
“The first way to do that is to carry out every service recall with the same, uncompromised quality. We understand the challenges: I visited our ten biggest fleet customers recently and spoke to them about the situation. Some of them have bought 25,000 cars from us - they are really big customers - and they expressed no doubts about the core qualities of the engineering on our vehicles. But it was clear they had higher question marks over the situation with our corporate culture.
“In the current climate we cannot think about being the world’s biggest car maker or other such things. Our one goal in 2016 is to regain the trust of customers by bringing their cars back to the right standards. That will be bloody hard work - they want the same noise, the same fun, the same fuel economy, the same everything, and that is what they must get.
“Obviously the end result of doing that well, and creating a culture where that level of service is ongoing, will create a stable platform from where the business can grow. But there are no shortcuts to that. For some people there will always be a lingering issue over this situation, and we must accept that.”
VW is still negotiating with US authorities as to how it will fix cars affected by the scandal, while its independent investigation into how the scandal unfolded is expected to be presented around June this year. So far, the company has set aside £5.2bn to cover the costs of the scandal, although some analysts predict that bill could triple.