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Volkswagen Apology Ads Ignore Black, Latino Media



Volkswagen did not place any “mea culpa” ads in any of the more than 200 National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Black-owned newspapers that carry a combined weekly readership of more than 20 million people. (VW)

Volkswagen did not place any “mea culpa” ads in any of the more than 200 National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Black-owned newspapers that carry a combined weekly readership of more than 20 million people. (VW)

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA News Wire Contributing Writer

Still facing an uphill battle to regain its reputation as a trusted automobile manufacturer, Volkswagen has turned a blind-eye to consumers in the Black and Latino community.

To some, it’s puzzling that the scandal-plagued automaker would ignore African-Americans, whom a Nielsen Company study revealed possess $1.1 trillion in collective buying power that’s expected to increase to $1.3 trillion by 2017.

Equally inexplicable is the company’s exclusion of Latinos, whose college enrollment has more than tripled since 1996 and who now represent 20 percent of the white and gray collar labor force.

In an effort to garner some needed goodwill, Volkswagen earlier this month placed advertisements in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and 28 other newspapers apologizing to what it called its “trusted consumer” base for its misdeeds.

Those ads were not placed in any of the more than 200 National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Black-owned newspapers that carry a combined weekly readership of more than 20 million people.

Nor were they placed in any of the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) newspapers, which serve 41 markets in 39 states with a combined circulation of more than 23 million readers, according to the NAHP.

“While new vehicle purchasing remains steady overall, more Latinos and African-Americans are buying new cars, yet we do not see Volkswagen engage with our communities especially when brand loyalty is one of the strengths of our consumers,” said Martha Montoya, the president of the NAHP and publisher of the award-winning El Mundo newspaper.

Montoya provided statistics that revealed that Latinos and African-Americans accounted for at least 18 percent of new vehicle purchases in 2018, up by three percentage points from last year.

“[Yet], Volkswagen’s spending in Latino media declined by 49 percent so far this year, when compared to last year.

“Now that they have the opportunity to grab a market share with relevant cultural material, they keep insisting on ignoring our industry which is absolutely puzzling,” Montoya said.

That means ignoring more than $1.5 trillion to $1.7 trillion in annual buying power that Latinos possess, according Carlos Santiago, president and chief strategist of Santiago Solutions Group, a leading growth strategy consultancy focused on Latino markets.

In the Volkswagen mea culpa ads, the company apologized for concealing the high-level of emissions in its diesel models with a sensor and software that conveyed phony data.

The transgression has raised doubts about the company’s credibility, and hearings in the United States Senate and elsewhere were convened to investigate the matter.

Along with the ads, Volkswagen said its offering affected car owners a $500 Volkswagen Visa Prepaid Loyalty Card and a $500 Volkswagen Dealership Card.

They’re also offering free, 24-hour Roadside Assistance for three years.

However, excluding minority-owned newspapers signaled that minority consumers, whose combined annual spending power is more than $3 trillion, were not included in the offer.

“We placed the ad with papers in key markets that had the widest diverse readership possible,” said Machelle D. Williams, general manager of diversity and CSR at Volkswagen.

“I know that VW values communities of color as is evidenced by our focused efforts over the past few years to implement a diversity and inclusion strategy that strengthens the communities where we live and work,” she said, but even she noted that, “Of course, there is always room for improvement and we look forward to continuing our efforts.”

The company insisted that diversity and inclusion are top priorities for Volkswagen of America and officials said this commitment is part of the company’s goal of being recognized as a leader in diversity and inclusion practices by 2018 and includes partnerships with key national organizations such as the National Urban League, National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, and Rainbow Push.

“Volkswagen also remains focused on efforts to rebuild trust and confidence in the brand, committed to work as quickly as possible to develop an approved remedy, and eager to reach as many customers as possible affected by the TDI issue in markets where their vehicles were purchased,” said Darryll Harrison Jr., a company spokesman. “The Volkswagen Goodwill Package is an important first step in our efforts to begin making things right with our customers and dealers.”

However, the company did not explain why they overlooked minority-owned media outlets.

“The only thing that Volkswagen has ever done as it pertains to ethnic marketing is just a couple of things with the Latino media,” said Ken Smikle of Target Market News. “They’ve always taken the African-American community for granted.”

And, it’s not just Volkswagen who’s ignored that buying power.

A Nielsen Company consumer spending report released last year revealed that companies spend just three percent of their advertising budgets marketing to African-American consumers.

“The Black population is young, hip and highly influential,” said Cheryl Pearson McNeil, a vice president at Nielsen. “We are growing 64 percent faster than the general market.”

But, Volkswagen’s credibility appears to be shrinking.

The YouGov Brand Index, which tracks consumer perception, found that Volkswagen’s U.S. score plummeted to minus-24 as of Sept. 22 from a plus 12 just before the scandal broke.

Negative tweets about Volkswagen jumped to 99,900 during the week from Sept. 18 through 24, compared with 1,187 in the seven days before the crisis, according to Amobee Brand Intelligence.

Earlier this year, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition its annual Auto Diversity Scorecard revealed that, when it comes to advertising, marketing and minority dealership development, Volkswagen did display some indication of diversity.

Dr. Ben Chavis, the president and CEO of the NNPA and civil rights leader, said that he’s appalled at Volkswagen’s deliberate exclusion of newspapers and individuals of color.

“The National Newspaper Publishers Association is singularly distinguished in the national marketplace as the sole trusted print and digital media voice of Black America,” Chavis said. “Volkswagen did the right thing by attempting to offer a public apology to its consumers, but Volkswagen did the wrong thing by failing to reach out to African-American-owned newspapers represented by the NNPA.”

Chavis continued: “So-called mainstream news media are not trusted by Black America because of the long history and contemporary manifestations of the publication and distribution of negative racial stereotypes and disrespectful news coverage concerning the overall quality of life in Black America. Yet, that missed opportunity by Volkswagen can be and should be corrected forthwith and expeditiously.”

Freddie Allen is the Editor-In-Chief of the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Focused on Black people stuff, positively. You should follow Freddie on Twitter and Instagram @freddieallenjr.

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NAMAD Honors James Farmer with Lifetime Achievement Award

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “I can remember at a NAMAD banquet there were two tables, maybe three at a conference of minority dealers,” he said. “But I watched it grow to the level that it is today with many [tables] and, to be in a position within General Motors and to assist the industry and see it grow, has been gratifying,” he said.



Retired GMAC Vice President for Merchandising, Advertising and Communications James Farmer remains one of the fiercest advocates for the Black Press in the automotive industry. The NNPA honored Farmer with the 2018 NNPA Torch Award for Outstanding Leadership and Service for over 50 years in the Automotive Industry and Support of the NNPA.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent

After a half-century in the automobile industry, James Farmer has certainly seen it all.

And, after receiving a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD) earlier this month, Farmer took time to reflect.

“I’ve seen this industry grow – and grow for African Americans,” Farmer said.

“I can remember at a NAMAD banquet there were two tables, maybe three at a conference of minority dealers,” he said. “But I watched it grow to the level that it is today with many [tables] and, to be in a position within General Motors and to assist the industry and see it grow, has been gratifying,” he said.

Farmer has set the example for many inside and outside of the automobile industry.

He earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in marketing from Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio in 1967 and, after nearly 10 years in advertising, sales and marketing at the Airtemp division of the Chrysler Corporation, he began his career with General Motors at the former Delco Products Division in Dayton, Ohio, in 1976.

He held a number of key leadership positions at GM including: Group Director of Communications for GM’s Small Car Group in 1994; Group Director of Public Relations and Communications, GM North American Sales, Service and Marketing in 1998; General Director Marketing and Constituency Communications with GM’s Worldwide Communications Group in 1999; and Vice President of Merchandising, Advertising and Communications at GMAC until his retirement in 2004.

Even though Farmer retired as a vice president of GMAC in 2004, he remained committed to fostering positive business relationships between the Black Press and the auto industry.

“Jim Farmer has done so many great things, solved so many problems, and he’s bridged so many gaps for our industry,” said Damon Lester, the president and CEO of NAMAD, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that’s dedicated to developing strategic relationships and advocating for the advancement of business policies and practices that ensure diversity and economic parity remain a priority in all aspects of the American automotive industry.

“His value goes well beyond his tenure at General Motors,” Lester said.

“His character and integrity are legendary and no matter what the issue was, no matter how dire the situation, he could pick up that phone and call a Rev. Jesse Jackson or a Rev. Al Sharpton or someone and have a dialogue with them and get their perspective and come back to everyone else with some sort of middle ground that was fair for all parties,” Lester said.

“He has a heck of a legacy,” he said.

Farmer, who also has been honored by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA, The Black Press of America) with the organization’s prestigious Torch Award, Legacy of Excellence Award and Lifetime Achievement Award, recalled his youth when he sold EBONY and Jet magazines and the Cleveland Call and Post newspapers.

He said that’s where his connection to the Black Press began.

“I grew up with it,” said Farmer, who remains an advocate of the Black Press.

“James Ellis Farmer is the epitome of more than a half century of career excellence in the automotive industry,” NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., said.

“The Black Press of America via the NNPA salutes Jim Farmer for his outstanding global leadership,” Chavis said.

Farmer was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities under President George W. Bush where he traveled the world as a cultural ambassador.

A member of the Board of Advisors at the Harvard School of Divinity Summer Leadership Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Washington, DC, Farmer also served on the National Board of Advisors Development Team, planning the commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University, Washington, DC.

Farmer also has presented the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in France, Vietnam and India, and most recently in China, as part of a Global Cultural exchange program with the U. S. Department of State and the Theolonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

However, Farmer’s passion has always been in the auto industry.

“My career has been gratifying,” he said.

“I do remember the unfortunate economic conditions that befell the country and the automobile industry, and we saw a drop off in automobile dealers – a dropping of Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn,” Farmer said.

“That meant that it affected a number of dealers of color who had franchises,” he said.

Now that the economy is steady, or some would say robust, Farmer said he’s hoping that more young people of color will look to own dealerships.

“There are opportunities at GM and other places and the time is right,” he said.

“Today, it’s so diverse. I remember when GM, Ford and Chrysler had more than 90 percent of the market. Today, they collectively might have 40 percent.”

“So, in the auto industry these days, people have to have diversity. Not just in color, but in thought because we have cars today that we didn’t have 50 years ago, and I also remember when there were only about six black dealers [nationwide] and now GM has 50,” Farmer said.

With that, it’s important to capitalize on the opportunities available, which was a lesson Farmer said he learned when he was a child.

“I am one of 14 kids and my mother and father were married for 61 years and they raised us with the idea that, when much is given, much is expected,” Farmer said.

“So, when you’re blessed, you have to share those blessings and that is just basic philosophy and it’s kind of a religious belief that I have always had during my years at Chrysler and GM,” he said.

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