Herald Sun - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE CONFIDENTIAL - Twit­ter: @RTMBlack­burn

VOLK­SWA­GEN sales dipped last month in the wake of the emis­sions scan­dal but don’t ex­pect the Ger­man maker to dis­count its way out of trou­ble.

VW Oc­to­ber sales were down 6 per cent. That com­pares with 12 per cent growth in the first nine months of the year. Worse still, se­nior deal­ers sug­gested show­room traf­fic was down 25 to 30 per cent last month.

Lo­cal boss Michael Bartsch says the out­look isn’t as dire as it seems. He says pas­sen­ger car sales were up slightly on last Oc­to­ber, with com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles bear­ing the brunt of the slow­down.

“It’s knocked a lit­tle bit of the wind out of our sails but the busi­ness and our brand rep­u­ta­tion are gen­er­ally hold­ing up,” he says.

He says there won’t be a fire sale to move metal again. “There’s no doubt we have to fo­cus on our core at­tributes and re­build trust in the mar­ket but the key thing is not to panic. We’re not go­ing to fall back on a dis­tress (sell­ing) strat­egy. That would be the wrong thing to do to our ex­ist­ing cus­tomers.”

But news some petrolengined cars are also un­der a cloud is likely to dampen en­thu­si­asm for the brand fur­ther, es­pe­cially given there is no so­lu­tion yet.

Dealer sources say they’re be­ing told the fix is likely to be com­plex, with thou­sands of pos­si­ble com­bi­na­tions of soft­ware changes re­quired.

Bartsch agrees the na­ture and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the fix is cru­cial to bounc­ing back. “Ul­it­mately we will be judged by how we treat our ex­ist­ing cus­tomers,” he says.

A se­nior mar­ket re­searcher agrees. Prob­lems with the com­pany’s DSG gear­boxes “barely dented” en­thu­si­asm for the brand, he says.

But there is an ob­sta­cle. VW does poorly in cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence sur­veys, with re­sults “nowhere near the Kore­ans or Ja­panese”.

It’s a bap­tism of fire for Bartsch, who has barely been in the job a month.

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