Volkswagen stops regular ads in favor of ‘Community Driven Promise’ coronavirus response campaign

The effort follows similar moves by other automakers that are suffering major sales setbacks during the pandemic

Published On
Apr 03, 2020

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Volkswagen will end a celebrity-driven campaign for its new Atlas Cross Sport crossover in favor of ads plugging a new program aimed at giving buyers some financial relief during the coronavirus outbreak.

The initiative, called “Community Driven Promise,” offers buyers who finance through Volkswagen Credit the ability to defer payments up to 90 days without fees, as well as lease extensions of up to six months. New buyers can delay their first payment for up to 180 days and get zero-interest loans for up to 72 months on most vehicles. The program runs through April 30.

A campaign backing the program features VW dealers in small towns across America talking against a backdrop of scenes showing empty storefronts, streets and classrooms, while pledging that “we are here to help.” The effort comes from Johannes Leonardo.

“We know this pandemic has caused significant stress and worry across America, and is putting financial strain on millions of households,” Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen of America, stated in a press release. “We have a commitment to help our customers, our dealers, our employees and our communities in a time of crisis.”

The campaign, which will get TV airplay, replaces regular advertising, including the Atlas campaign. That effort debuted in early March and starred Paul Giamatti as a “celebrity accountant” advising his free-spending client, played by Kieran Culkin, known for his portrayal of Roman Roy in HBO’s “Succession.” A VW spokesman confirmed those national ads “have been phased out, and regional [ads] will be phasing out over the next few days.”

The decision to shift media to a coronavirus-response message follows similar moves by other automakers that are suddenly operating in a vastly different economic environment. Sales have plummeted as dealer showrooms go dark amid stay-at-home orders issued by multiple states.

“Everyone is basically holding their breath for April,” Mark Wakefield, global co-head of the automotive and industrial practice at AlixPartners, told Automotive News. The firm lowered its forecast for 2020 U.S. sales to 13.5 million units. “We do think the market comes back sharply but not where it was,” Wakefield said.

In an attempt to keep some business coming, Volkwagen is following other automakers in plugging dealer-run programs that offer home pickup and delivery of cars. It aims to “help customers who want to practice social distancing, but still need their vehicles brought to a participating dealership for service or repairs,” the automaker stated.