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Volkswagen Emissions Crisis – What’s Going On In Social Media?

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” – Mark Twain

Yet another crisis situation has dawned upon one of the world’s largest automakers – Volkswagen. The company is now battling with public backlash about rigging the emission tests and a sudden leadership change.

We’ve rounded up all the must-know information with some must-see social data that we pulled using our platform.

On September 18th 2015

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Volkswagen rigged the U.S emissions tests to make their diesel-powered cars more environmentally friendly than they actually were.

September 22nd 2015

The company then, made a public statement on confirming the allegations and said that 11 million of its cars were affected.

September 23rd 2015

Volkswagen’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Martin Winterkorn resigned following a meeting with the company’s board.

September 25th 2015

Matthias Muller is named Volkswagen CEO. Muller said in a press release, “My most urgent task is to win back trust for the Volkswagen Group — by leaving no stone unturned and with maximum transparency, as well as drawing the right conclusions from the current situation. Under my leadership, Volkswagen will do everything it can to develop and implement the most stringent compliance and governance standards in our industry.”

September 28th 2015

Volkswagen subsidiaries, Audi and Skoda admit that 2.1 million and 1.2 million cars respectively had the software that has been at the center of the emissions crisis.

As a result of this, Volkswagen’s stock fell over 20 percent, turning the crisis that started off as a public perception into a serious hit at the company’s brand value.

What was Volkswagen talking about?

Even though rumors from social media were abuzz with the EPA accusation, Volkswagen chose to refrain from putting out any communication to the public.

Instead, the company carried on with its usual product promotional tweets on Twitter –

Volkswagen - Ads Volkswagen Ad 2

With Volkswagen choosing not to touch on the controversy that was quickly but surely taking over the nation, people resorted to social media as a free outlet to vent their frustrations. On Twitter, new car owners who bought their Volkswagens in hopes of bettering their carbon footprint were still coming to terms with the fact that their cars will leave up to 40 times higher emissions.


Let’s take a look at what the Social Data says

We tracked all conversations surrounding Volkswagen to give you a peek into what is it that people were talking about when the crisis ensued.

News publications like New York Times and Forbes had already published articles on the scandal by early to mid-afternoon.

Greg Greene - VW

NYTimes Volkswagen  Forbes - Volkswagen 2

As for the topics, clearly, all the wrong words were being associated with the Volkswagen brand. Not a pretty sight for the brand manager.

Volkswagen Word Cloud


The scandal has geographically spread from the United States to Europe and is now being discussed on a global spectrum. It received the most participation from the states of California, New York, Texas, Ontario (Canada), and Distrito Federal.

VW - Geo Location 1

On Volkswagen’s social networks, the public’s sentiment has largely been negative. Here are the top words that people used while venting out their frustrations.  However, a thing to note here is the amount of positive support that the brand got even amidst the negativity. Employees and Volkswagen loyalists came forward to lend their support towards the brand calling this a one-time mishap. So, despite the public sentiment being negative, there are high hopes and clear signs that the brand will bounce back and gain back its lost reputation.

VW - Sentiment


What are the next steps?

Since the crisis erupted, Volkswagen has launched a special “diesel information” website for communicating directly with the public on the issue. Complete with an FAQ section and a section that houses all official statements published by the organization, the company has clearly fulfilled one of the basic requirements for effective management of a crisis – establishing a clear channel for communicating with the public.


This is a positive move from a crisis management standpoint. We think that Volkswagen has started off its crisis management efforts by hitting some right notes – first by issuing a public apology and then launching the diesel information website. There is an opportunity for the company to further leverage paid, earned and owned media to keep the public informed about their actions.  With the brand’s cult presence during Super Bowl every year, the brand has a good 5-6 months between now and then to resolve matters and then use that platform to bring to the forefront all the steps they have been taking towards ensuring this does not repeat in the future.

While we continue keeping a close eye on the social data as this crisis unfolds, we are confident that Volkswagen will regain its lost sheen.

Don’t forget to keep track of what your audiences are saying about your brand on social media. Experts say that the most obvious method for spotting any crisis red flags is by monitoring the volume of conversation around your brand online. And, Zoomph helps you do all that and more. Sign up for our free plan to get started or sign up for one of these for more in-depth analysis of your brand. Give us a shout to get started. Because, as the saying goes:

“By the time you hear the thunder, it’s too late to build the ark.” – Anonymous

In part two of this blog, we will present some crucial social media tips that can help you effectively manage a crisis situation for your brand.

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