As far as car launches go, they don’t get much worse.
Volkswagen’s highly anticipated Golf 8 was supposed to set the new standard in the compact class. But the German car giant is now putting out fires on three fronts after a launch plagued by technical flaws, production delays and a marketing blunder.
Even Volkswagen’s own car dealerships in its home market have had to express their fears about the Golf’s highly anticipated eighth generation.
“The sheer amount of defects is regrettable,” the head of the German Volkswagen and Audi dealer association, Dirk Weddigen von Knapp, told the Handelsblatt business daily, saying no Golf before this had ever seen so many problems at launch.
Not only did a whole series of technical deficiencies become apparent, but dealers had even found spare parts were missing from what has traditionally been one of the world’s most popular cars.
Individuals close to the manufacturer say at least 30,000 models of the new Golf may have to be taken to the workshop due to technical problems in software and electronics, including a flaw with eCall, VW’s emergency call assistant.
And that’s not all: Volkswagen, still facing the legal consequences of cheating on diesel emissions, had already been facing delays before the pandemic slowed down VW production, and the Golf 8 was beset with problems as soon as it first started rolling off the production line in 2019.
The company was far behind on its original target of building 100,000 vehicles in the first year, managing less than 10 per cent of that. Bernd Osterloh, head of Volkswagen’s influential works council, had accused top management of a lack of involvement in finding solutions.
After six weeks of a standstill by the coronavirus, dealerships are now worried the 8 will be entirely recalled after VW pulled the delivery of new models due to the flaws.
To make matters worse, Volkswagen was forced to apologize in mid-May for a short social media ad promoting the Golf where users pointed to several elements that could be interpreted as being racist.
The clip showed a black man being pushed around on the street by an oversized white hand. When the words “Der neue Golf” (the new Golf) gradually appeared on the screen at the end, a combination of letters resembling the word “Neger” (nigger) emerged.
Social media users also noted that the hand made a symbol commonly used in the white power movement as it flicks the man into a hotel called “Petit Colon” (little colonizer).
Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess has now had to explain what’s been going wrong with the carmaker’s flagship Golf 8 model in a meeting with the supervisory board.
In his report to the board, Diess was expected to address criticism of the racist video advert posted recently on the company’s social media, as well as addressing the company’s standing in China and potentially further cooperation with US auto giant Ford.
Despite being a best-selling car at home in Germany and in many countries abroad, the Golf had already been finding it increasingly difficult to hold its own against SUVs and the up-and-coming electric car.
VW had hoped to compete by selling its new “smartphone on wheels” at a largely unchanged price with features like virtual instruments, a freely configurable touch screen, sensors for lights and other controls, touch-sensitive sliders and voice and gesture controls.