In 2020 Volkswagen’s Passat in China failed the crash test badly. The video went viral as a result of the car barely looking safe for a passenger to travel. It is a test by the Chinese government known as C-NCAP. Volkswagen has various manufacturing plants and the quality process on each plant of different. After the incident, Volkswagen sent many engineering to Wolfburg in China to modify the vehicle.
Initially, the company planned to change the materials used, which was expected to cost 400 yuan ($62) per vehicle additionally. However, that modification would amount to tens of millions of revenue is affected for the company. However, the reputation damage continues to increase after modifying the vehicle. As a part of reducing costs in China and globally, they possibly used cheaper materials earlier.
Volkswagen’s spokesperson stated that crash test including stimulated head-on collision is less likely in China than in the US. Volkswagens stated, “In China, there are central barriers on the highways. In China, there aren’t normally as many trucks or pickup trucks compared to U.S. traffic scenarios.”
The model which was released later in mid-2020 passed the insurance test as a result of structural modification. But the financial damage continues, where their profits decrease from 1,500 yuan per car in 2015 to 1,000 yuan per car this year. Bernstein analysts pointed out that China is important for Volkswagen’s financial health. The pandemic played a role in the drop in sales. However, as the sales continue to go down, the scenario is much changed for the company.
Volkswagen’s CEO Herbert Diess acknowledged the importance of China in their sales last month. Diess said, “Sales are picking up but it requires focus and different approaches as the customers for the EVs are much younger and different to the customer base we are having with the more traditional brands like Volkswagen in China,”
Being backlashed in China
There are many car crashes that have been worse than Passat. Yet the online backlash for Volkswagen’s car is much more than others. While being a 100-year-old company is to add value to the company, it possibly bought expectations too. This year 47,480 Volkswagen Passats were sold in China, which is almost half the sales of many of its competitors.
On the other hand, anyone who viewed the video would notice that there are multiple things wrong with the car. It wasn’t just the structure of the car. The dummy inside the car touched the dashboard, and the airbag barely toughed its face. Only the side airbag seemed to work as designed.