The more things change, the more they stay the same.
We’ve seen car brands lately increasingly look at alternatives to their traditional franchise dealers – with more embracing the set-price agency model (making dealers handover agents) or selling direct to consumers.
Examples of the former include Mercedes-Benz and Honda, and examples of the latter include Tesla, Polestar and VW subsidiary Cupra.
Yet for Volkswagen, a franchise dealer network seemingly remains a vital part of its future plans, especially as we move into a cycle with greater vehicle supply and price elasticity.
The company this week issued a statement saying it had flown some 13,000 dealers from across the world to Hamburg, to show them future products and detail future plans.
“Car dealerships play a key role in vehicle sales today and will continue to play this role tomorrow,” said member of the VW board for marketing, sales and aftersales Imelda Labbé.
“This is why we really want to have our dealers join our journey into the future, generate enthusiasm for our brand and jointly tackle future challenges.”
Adding to this was Volkswagen CEO Thomas Schäfer, who rather cheesily said the company was making itself a “Love Brand once again”.
“Our dealers will play a key role in this process – because they are the individuals who have direct contact with our customers,” Mr Schäfer added.
Ms Labbé said the dealers were encouraged to ask questions and share their ideas about the future of retail, while being given insights into company strategy for beyond 2030.
“The aim is to jointly discuss the shifting future perspectives of the dealerships. After all, we can tackle the transformation of the traditional car business only with the help of our dealers,” she said.
“…The dealers are our link to our customers. This is why their feedback is so tremendously important to us,” Ms Labbé added.
There’s clearly also a degree of ensuring multi-franchise dealer businesses continue to prioritise Volkswagen, by offering a sense of ownership in the brand.