Dear Volkswagen Drivers,
I hope this note finds you well. The world has turned upside down in the past two months. People are worried about their health, their finances, their jobs, their parents, and the future. Timeless rituals like holidays or birthdays or weddings or weekend baseball or dinner out are on hold, and we're all looking for signs that it's safe to come back out again.
But in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak, we’re seeing good all around us. We’re seeing neighbors look after neighbors. We’re seeing skies clear. We’re seeing New York pause each evening to celebrate the helpers. And we’re seeing all the ways in which transportation is as essential as ever.
From hospital workers and grocery personnel, to first responders and pharmacists, to people delivering supplies to friends, family, and customers, people count on their cars to perform our country’s most vital services.
We're also essential in the lives of the people we employ. About 8,800 people in the U.S. work across the VW Group brands, at our parts warehouses and ports and at our Chattanooga factory. And when you include our dealer networks, we indirectly contribute to the livelihood of about 35,000 more in the U.S.
A lot goes into the decisions we make as a company, especially during a 100‑year storm like this one. And I wanted to take a moment to share a bit of the framework for how we’re making decisions for our customers, employees and dealers. We intend to take the long view and always consider health and safety above all else as we do our part to help keep America moving.
For Volkswagen in the U.S., this issue started relatively small in the supply chain. Within weeks, the regional crisis became global. As cities and states moved to lock down their communities, we shut down our offices March 13 and asked everyone who could work from home to do so. We followed the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help protect the workers in our factory, our call centers and our parts distribution centers to maintain production of vehicles for people who needed one, as well as parts for repairs. Many dealers have begun to pivot to no‑touch drop offs for Service, as well as virtual walk‑arounds, no‑touch test drives, and digital signatures for purchase contracts.
As this rolling blackout shut down the biggest parts of the U.S. economy, we balanced managing a company with all of our costs and what was now a fraction of our revenue. While that business logic is simple, these decisions are about much more than cold math. I think a company has an obligation to its employees and communities as much as it does its shareholders. I also know the people who work in this company, and I know that we'll need as many of them as possible, if we're to come out on the other side of this storm more than just viable.
As the market collapsed, we had to idle the Chattanooga factory on March 21, but kept workers on full pay until April 10. Once the federal relief package took effect, we furloughed the production teams, while keeping them on full medical benefits, after paying out first‑quarter bonuses. That helped provide a cushion and let them take advantage of the expanded unemployment benefits until work resumes, which we expect to happen in early May.
For customers who've been impacted by this crisis, we worked with the tools at our disposal, helping to ease the financial stresses of owning and maintaining your vehicle. Highly qualified owners of most new VW models who finance their purchase through Volkswagen Credit can defer their first month’s payment for 180 days, with no interest for 72 months.* We also have flexible payment options for customers who've lost their job**.
We’re also serving our community by shifting gears to support essential services and workers. Along with Faurecia, which makes fabric for our seats, we’re manufacturing masks and gowns for healthcare workers and we're helping make visors in Chattanooga for area hospitals.
Many VW Dealers are in the process of repurposing their service loaners as delivery vehicles. Their employees have been bringing supplies to local food banks, carrying out food from local restaurants to customers in their homes, and making other essential deliveries.
In so many ways, life is different today from just a few weeks ago. Some of that change is unthinkable. But some of it has been magical. The commute to my coffee table takes about a minute. My wife and I can have coffee together every morning and I'm home for dinner every night. I hope you've been able to find the small but profound amid the new and chaotic in your own lives, too.
For now, be safe, be well and know that I, and all of our dealers and colleagues at Volkswagen of America, are thinking of and supporting you every day.
CEO and President of Volkswagen Group of America