Back in the day in the USA, when car-buyers generally trusted Volkswagen, the company was highly praised in marketing and advertising circles for its refreshingly honest 1960 Lemon advertisement.

This black and white ad showed a VW Beetle with the word “Lemon” underneath, and explained that rigorous inspection procedures rejected around one in fifty Beetles, sometimes for something as minor as a small scratch on the windscreen or a blemish on chrome, and that VW called these rejected cars Lemons. The sign-off was “We pluck the lemons; you get the plums”.

Today VW have a rather larger lemon-plucking job to do since being caught in the USA fitting “defeat” software that cheats emission tests to around 11million of its diesel cars in the USA and Europe, lemons that will now have to be recalled and turned back into plums, at a cost of around £5 billion. Moreover the estimated deaths from the illegal amounts of nitrous oxide spewed out by the rogue VWs – up to 40 times the allowable amount in the USA – are said to be between 16 and 94 people in the USA, many more in Europe. And of course there’s the loss of trust as Volkswagen have had to admit to all that they behaved dishonestly, an aspect that has cast a cloud over the whole motor industry, with some pointing out that other manufacturers have curiously neglected to condemn VWs deceit, and wondering why not.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which promotes the motor trade has confidently stated that the VW case is isolated, rather than industry-wide. Time will tell. Meanwhile a Panorama programme on the issue is now due to be screened by the BBC on Monday November 23. Coincidentally this is the day before the SMMT’s Annual Dinner on the 24th, a glittering affair at the Grosvenor House, where this year’s speaker is the well-respected, witty and sharply insightful broadcaster Nick Robinson, a former deputy editor at Panorama, who will hopefully have lots of interesting and witty insights into the motor trade to share with SMMT.

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