In the weeks and months following the revelation of VW's emissions cheat, advertising/marketing people like Sylvia Long-Tolbert of Johns Hopkins had a lot to say about VW's recovery.
In a Johns Hopkins Q&A in late 2015, Tolbert says:
"[T]wo or three years ago, [VW] started building this market positioning around clean diesel technology, and people recognized them as being a market leader. Their inability to deliver on this CO2 emissions promise or benefit seems to suggest there may be something else amiss..."
Tolbert recommended rebranding both inside and outside the company in order for VW to regain its prior level of consumer trust, which brings us to the automaker's "Electrify America" program.
VW Electrifies America
As part of the deal with U.S. regulators over the emissions scandal, VW is to pump billions of dollars into zero-emission vehicle infrastructure.
"We will build," according to VW's Electrify America site, "a nationwide network of workplace, community, and highway chargers that are convenient and reliable. Our investment will enable millions of Americans to discover the benefits of electric driving."
VW's efforts to "electrify America" in this manner is a far cry from knowingly selling diesel-fueled cars that don't perform as advertised, and in fact pumped far higher levels of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, to the point where some people will suffer premature deaths owing to the pollution.
California Air Resources Board Questions VW's Plan
But what a company says it will do - especially a company that has lost public trust because of its actions - means nothing compared to what the company actually does. It's easy enough to build a website laying out the Electrify America plan; it's quite another for it to happen, court-approved settlement notwithstanding.
Perhaps it's no surprise that the California Air Resources Board doesn't believe VW's plan is up to snuff. The plan's first phase involves $200M invested in California's electric car infrastructure, but Reuters reports that the CARB says that VW's plan "has shortcomings."