German car manufacturer Volkswagen has updated their iconic logo as part of the launch of their all-electric cars. Is this a simple rebrand or is it another step on VW’s path to redeeming their somewhat shaky reputation? Claire Baldwin takes a look.

We don’t need to introduce Volkswagen to you. The car manufacturer is a household name that has been around for over 80 years. Their iconic VW logo is almost a cultural icon in its own right, but it’s recently undergone a transformation as part of the company’s launch of their new all-electric cars.

Behind VW’s iconic logo

VW’s rebrand is focused on the simplification and modernisation of their iconic logo. This classic symbol has been with the company since its beginnings in 1937, though its first design definitely feels a little swastika-y.

It’s here that we come to the first of VW’s various PR nightmares: its origins as the ‘people’s car’ (which is what ‘Volkswagen’ translates to) under the Nazi regime. While initially created as a positive company promoting, ‘strength through joy’, (Kraft durch Freude) it’s hard to separate the events of the Second World War from the origins of the company.

The initial logo was scrapped before the war due to its resemblance to a pedestal fan, and it was replaced with a simpler version featuring the letters V and W within a cog. Further versions of the logo stayed very loyal to the heart of the design, and it was mostly a simple logo until the addition of chrome and shadows in the late 1990s that started to detract from the pleasing simplicity of the design.

Fuelling the flames

Volkswagen is now one of the world’s most successful car manufacturers, employing almost 200,000 people and producing vehicles for customers in over 150 countries.

However, this successful history hasn’t been devoid of the odd moment of disgrace, most notably the emissions scandal of 2015.

Often referred to as Dieselgate or Emmissionsgate, the scandal broke when VW was found to have been cheating diesel emissions tests for years, making the cars appear to be more environmentally friendly than they were. Consumers and other manufacturers were understandably put out by this, and Volkswagen’s stocks plummeted, with the company losing almost a quarter of its market value practically overnight.

Simplifying a complicated past

 VW’s recent rebrand comes as part of the release of their new range of all-electric cars, with the world premiere of the ID.3 at the beginning of September. It’s carbon neutral and, with the basic model costing less than €30,000, it’s a car for the people with the environment at its heart.

Along with their responsible manufacturing and green energy, VW has unveiled a streamlined logo update. According to their press release, it has been reduced to its “essential elements” making it clear and simple, open, and easy to use.

Call us skeptical, but we can’t help but wonder whether there’s a slight ulterior motive here. While moving to greener and more sustainable practices is something to celebrate, it can’t be denied that VW’s reputation in recent years has been anything but “clear” and “open”.

Is the new logo and a move to electric vehicles a sign of VW changing for good, or are they simply trying to distance themselves from a sketchy past? We’ll have to wait and see.