Auto industry critics have regularly cited VW for its bad timing: From long delays in offering a three-row crossover to its heavy-handed push for Diesel-powered cars at the expense of hybrids and EVs, the world’s third-largest carmaker is frequently chided for questionable business decisions.
The latest choice, however, is bringing a new round of scorn.
Next week, Volkswagen AG plans to release a special edition of its best-selling Golf model, dubbed the “Golf R Kelly Edition.” Offered as a higher-end trim of its existing Golf R sports car, the Golf R Kelly Edition includes features such as a 17-speaker Moral Relativity sound system and a patented passenger-focused urea injection system.
VW CEO Herbert Diess cites an irrevocable contract signed with the embattled Grammy-winning pop/R&B singer more than five years ago, a period in which the artist was believed to be past his legal battles and was not yet covering the front pages of newspapers around the world once again.
“Mr. Kelly and VW have been in discussions for several years and we don’t intend to renege on this arrangement,” Mr. Diess states.
Feeding the company’s critics even further is their advertising campaign for the new car. Focused heavily on unusual ad placements in magazines like Seventeen, Teen People, and Teen Vogue, VW again points to unwavering language in the original contract that specified those magazines. With taglines like “We Believe it Can Fly” and “Speed Ain’t Nothing But a Number,” the company hopes to leverage R. Kelly’s biggest hits with VW’s built-in cult of enthusiastic followers.
Mr. Diess defends that “…VW knows scandal as well as anyone, and we understand that if you create a good product, people will forget about your past,” continuing “I’m sure Mr. Kelly will overcome his struggle and reach a final solution with his accusers. In the meantime, none of us plan to keep this amazing vehicle trapped in the closet.”
To help allay some of this unwanted publicity, VW is also launching a simultaneous push for its family-oriented vehicles featuring the work of late pop icon Michael Jackson. As CEO Diess quipped in a recent press release, “When you think ‘Kids & Safety,’ we want VW and Michael Jackson to come to mind first.”