I don’t know how Volkswagen sales are doing — but the company seems to be a little grouchy.
Kim has been serving Volkswagen owners — repairing and maintaining their cars — for 30 years.
He is a model small business owner. He does a modest amount of advertising — but the vast majority of his marketing takes place between the four walls of his business. He does great work at a fair price, and his customers tell their friends and family. He lives in a house next to his shop, and he stays busy.
There are no Volkswagen dealers in Rowan or Cabarrus County (not to mention Mercedes, Audi, or Porsche). Certainly, these companies have sold cars to locals who take comfort in the fact that German Imports is there, willing to provide service — without driving to Charlotte or Greensboro.
My wife and I publish Coffee News, a popular, weekly restaurant publication, available primarily in restaurants. Kim has been advertising with us for the past few months. In fact, because he runs his ad in several areas, it’s safe to say he is one of our best customers.
It’s a small, simple ad (3×2 inches), that offers parts and service for Volkswagen and other brands. We’ve been using the Volkswagen logo for the graphic. He also used this graphic on his business card and sign.
Volkswagen tried to put German Imports out of business. They sent him a quarter-inch-thick packet of materials, explaining that he can’t use a VW logo, picture of a bug, or picture that looks similar to a bug.
They demanded money. Quite a bit of money. Enough to put any Mom and Pop mechanic — however good — out of business.
Kim hired a lawyer who settled for an amount that would put many small business owners out of business. He’s paying the money and is determined to come back.
I have little knowledge of trademark law, but I think I understand Volkswagen’s point.
However, it seems to me that this giant, international company is not hurting a competitor but instead trying to extract money from a friend. A good, loyal friend who has been helping Volkswagen grow for 30 years.
Sure, VW wants to service the cars they sell. But having a network of qualified mechanics in areas in which they don’t have dealerships only adds to their sales.
Imagine if they wanted to own the market on gasoline. They would only sell to people who lived in the neighborhood. Service is no different, albeit much less frequent.
They should be thanking Kim Hinson for 30 years of service to their brand.
At the very least, they could have asked him to stop using the logo. He used it innocently and would have stopped without the hostile gesture.
I recently listened to the audio recording of What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. Great book.
Google grew faster than any company in the history of the world, and there are a few principles it lives by. One is to ‘do good, not evil.’ Jarvis talks about the “gift economy,” which is fascinating — and, at the risk of oversimplification, amounts to a spirit of generosity in corporate affairs. I’m guessing Google has even been kind enough to put a Volkswagen ad on this page. I appreciate that. We’re all working together.
But Volkswagen seems to prefer Gotcha Capitalism, which Jarvis says will not — in this age of transparency — endure.
German Imports is located at 6385 Irish Potato Rd., Kannapolis, NC. The phone number is (704) 932-8211.
Here are some logo ideas for Kim, if he wants to use them: