Did the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Harm the “Made in Germany” Image? A Cross-Cultural, Cross-Products, Cross-Time Study

Abstract

Over the past years, the Volkswagen emissions scandal has been part of an enduring discussion in the Western media on corporate responsibility (or lack thereof). With its slogan “Das Auto,” the world’s second-largest automobile producer had successfully positioned itself as a German company in both the domestic and foreign markets, with the aim of benefitting from Germany’s positive country image. The emissions scandal, however, may have harmed not only the VW brand but also the “Made in Germany” label in general. This exploratory article shows that there are strong signals that this transgression indeed has led to a reverse country-of-origin effect, compromising Germany’s positive image. The authors demonstrate that this effect varied across product categories and customers’ cultural affiliations and that the perceived impact of the brand transgression on the country image increased over time.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Previous research (Bergkvist and Rossiter 2007) suggests and COO researchers (e.g., Josiassen et al. 2008; Maruyama and Wu 2014) confirm that single-item scales are adequate when measuring singular constructs (i.e., constructs that consist of one object that survey respondents can easily and uniformly imagine).

  2. 2.

    These counterintuitive values are not erroneous since the interviewees provided a motivation for these answers after having completed the questionnaire.

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Aichner, T., Coletti, P., Jacob, F. et al. Did the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Harm the “Made in Germany” Image? A Cross-Cultural, Cross-Products, Cross-Time Study. Corp Reputation Rev (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41299-020-00101-5

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Keywords

  • Country of origin (COO)
  • Country image
  • Brand transgression
  • Subcultures
  • Made in Germany