If auto manufacturers want to avoid becoming ensnared by fallout from Volkswagen’s taint on the industry, it’s vital that they are open and honest with consumers.
This is the message given recently to Reuters by Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan alliance and a leading protagonist of all-electric cars including the globally best-selling Nissan Leaf.
“I think our industry as a whole needs to make sure that it has a very strong tie to consumers,” Ghosn said. “And this tie to consumers means a lot of trust – into what we’re doing, the technology we’re introducing, the reliability of our products.
“This means a lot of transparency, much better communication. Not only about the product itself, but also about how we do the product and if there is any risk around the product. And we obviously need to do a much better job.”
Ghosn wouldn’t, however, comment directly on Volkswagen’s admission that it was using defeat devices to cheat emission tests.
“It’s very difficult for me to make comments” on this specific case, Ghosn told Reuters. “We need to wait a little bit more to understand what happened, why these decisions were taken. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ … so let’s wait to understand better.”
As the disclosure by Volkswagen of 11 million 2009-2014 TDI engines rigged to pass emissions tests sent ripples through the industry, authorities are clamping down against the entire industry to try to make sure this can’t happen again. In Europe and the U.S. regulators announced coming on-road emissions testing. At the same time, consumers are expressing dismay, disgust, and and distrust.
As an example of the necessary straightforward approach, Ghosn noted that his company issued a statement confirming “there’s nothing like this happening in Renault.”
What Ghosn didn’t talk about was how even though there has been no implication that the brands he manages use defeat devices, this scandal is already affecting the Renault-Nissan Alliance. According to Automotive News, in the last week Renault’s shares have dropped by 9.5 percent. And backlash from consumer concern over diesels could continue impacting carmakers.
“Europe will go down particularly in the segment for smaller cars,” said analyst Sascha Gommel.
Ghosn reiterated that, in order to best address this situation, permanent changes in transparency need to occur.
“For the industry as a whole, and particularly for companies into the industry, making sure that you are being very straightforward about our product as much as possible is extremely important,” he said. “And it’s not about a short-term issue” but a strategy needed “for the sustainability of our industry.”
“The most important thing is keep the trust and grow the trust with our consumers,” said Ghosn.