The Volkswagen Scandal: What Communication Means for a Business

During a crisis, how a company communicates to the public can make or break the company. Many companies have been faced by scandals, including some of the biggest companies in the world; how they reacted and communicated to the public mattered a lot.

            Volkswagen is accused of cheating about its diesel cars emission tests in the US market. The company is said to have fitted its cars with a device installed with a sophisticated software; this devices made the cars pass emission tests. To achieve this, the devices detected when the car was being tested and switched the car to a safe mode. When the car is in this state, its engine runs below normal state performance. When on the road, the device switches the car to normal state making it to run faster. The cars are fun to drive, but extremely dangerous for the environment. The amount of pollutants released by the company’s diesel cars in said to be 40 times the legal amount. Worse, the company is accused of doing this since the year 2008. Currently, close to 11 million cars manufactured by the company worldwide are said to have the device. The company has very few options.

            For any company faced by a crisis, the obvious might be to disregard the allegations and publish a statement rubbishing the allegations. Most people would instinctively try to protect their reputation at all costs. Nevertheless, this is not always the winning strategy. In today’s world where investigations are extremely thorough, taking such a course can be disastrous. Instead of doing good for the company, such an attempt can plunge the company into deep trouble when the truth is revealed. In as much as a company would love to kill any negativity that would cause losses, it takes skilled communication to influence the reaction of the public; and Volkswagen needs to do exactly that to escape the impending losses.

            One of the greatest reasons for effective communication is to achieve your interests. In the case of Volkswagen, after being faced with a scandal that could sent the company to its knees, the company has its interests at heart and it has to protect them. Volkswagen has to try and maintain its market position, even in this times of adversity. Effective communication is there only way out. They not only need to show remorse, but also to convince the world that not all hope is lost.

            Volkswagen admits lying to the world about its diesel car emission levels. Lying would have been fatal. A major probe into the matter followed by a major public backlash could have been worse. To avoid this, the company solemnly admits its mistake. In a video statement, the resigned chief executive manager apologizes to the public. He explains his deep sorrow since the scandal goes against everything that the company stands for. He is convincing and remorseful. With that, the public will not be as aggressive in handling the matter compared to if he lied and appeared skeptical. The manager understands his audience well and knows all that can go wrong. With that, he says what is seemingly the most appropriate thing he could have said in such circumstances.

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