What better than 24 smiling children’s faces to show that a gift has well and truly hit the spot? Today, the employees at financial services provider Volkswagen Credit Inc. (VCI) have set aside their strategy papers and business plans in favor of wrenches and elbow grease – assembling new bicycles for children in the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona. This is just one of the many examples illustrating the Volkswagen Group’s social involvement.
Once the saddle has been screwed on tightly, the small purple bicycle is good to go. For the last hour or so, manager Joanna Sherry and her team have been busying themselves with Allen wrenches and pliers and she is now carrying out a final check to make sure that everything is safe and secure. For Sherry and her 130 colleagues from VCI, assembling bicycles is a far cry from their everyday work; in fact, they even interrupted their annual management get-together in Phoenix, Arizona, specially for the project.
As the teams put the finishing touches to their handiwork, a swarm of children is gathering outside. Here, a total of 23,000 people live on the land of their Native American ancestors. Andrew Stuart, Chief Executive Officer and President of VCI, has no wish to keep the 24 girls and boys on tenterhooks – the bikes are now theirs to take home. Bursting with excitement, all the children want to do now is get on the bikes and ride. As this is the first time that many of the six- to nine-year-olds have owned a bicycle, it goes without saying they need an occasional helping hand to keep their balance on two wheels.
“The fact that we are involved in activities like these during the most important management event of the year shows how much we care about helping our community”, declares Stuart. “Here in the USA, we are not just a business partner and employer but also see ourselves as part of society – as a good neighbor and a good corporate citizen.”
Eight-year-old Aaliyah can scarcely believe her luck as she carefully reaches for the handlebars: “Is this bike really for me?” One year her senior, Marco is already up on the saddle and riding about, beaming from ear to ear. “With our bicycle project, we want to show kids that exercise and healthy living can also be a lot of fun”, explains Stuart.
This is just one of a great many projects in which the Volkswagen Group is involved. Volkswagen Group of America finances large nationwide campaigns through its own foundation and together with partner organizations. For instance, the Volkswagen of America Foundation donated half a million dollars towards the reconstruction efforts following Hurricane Sandy in fall 2012.
VCI prefers to focus on a wide range of small-scale activities. “We help out in places where we are based, where we work and where our employees live”, says Andrew Stuart. In addition to its headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, the company has eight different locations in the USA.
Andrew Stuart cites various examples of the company’s nationwide activities: employees undertaking voluntary work for environmental organizations, organizing charity events and making donations to aid programs, particularly those aimed at helping young people. For instance, VCI puts its weight behind foundations researching cancer and diabetes among small children, but also behind school and sports programs.
With a workforce of some 1,100 people, VCI is the Volkswagen Group’s largest financial services company outside Germany. It currently manages over a million leasing and financing agreements, a figure that is rising by the day – not least since the Volkswagen Passat, which is built at the new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was voted Car of the Year 2012 in the USA. “90 percent of US car buyers either lease or finance their vehicles”, explains Stuart, who is clearly optimistic about the future, “and we will continue to grow – and to increase our commitment to society at the same time”.
Aaliyah has since got the better of her initial apprehension and is pedaling her new bicycle cautiously as Joanna Sherry holds onto her shoulders. After a few meters, the little girl stops and looks up at her: “Can Volkswagen build a bike for my brother, too?”