As Volkswagen holds its hands up and admits that 11 million of its vehicles worldwide are involved in the scandal that has erupted over its rigging of US car emission tests, the spotlight turns yet again on crisis communications. 

VW’s US president and CEO has admitted that the company “was dishonest” and said “we have totally screwed up.”  He also quoted the chairman of VW’s parent company who said he “deeply regretted that Volkswagen had broken the trust of our customers and the public” in America.  Martin Winterhorn said that making good was the first priority for him and his board of directors.

We say well done guys.  The first rule of crisis comms is to own up if you’ve screwed up.  The second is to get the senior people to take full responsibility, apologise publicly and spell out how they plan to put things right. 

VW is setting aside £4.7bn to cover the costs of the scandal, and has accepted that this figure may have to be reviewed as it continues with its “efforts to win back the trust” of its customers.  And while it will be interesting to see how events unfold over the coming weeks, the company can’t be criticised for the way it is handling the communications so far.

To be honest, we would have expected nothing less from the world’s top selling vehicle maker and one of the biggest brands in the world.  The way in which major brands handle crises shows the rest of us how it should (and in some cases, how it shouldn’t) be done.

What would you have done?  If you are not sure how prepared your company is for a crisis, how you’d handle the media, what to say and what not to say, and who should be in your crisis management team, you might find our crisis communications workshop useful.  Get in touch to find out more.

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