REMARKS FOR JONATHAN BROWNING, PRESIDENT AND CEO, VOLKSWAGEN GROUP OF AMERICA
May 7, 2013
National Mall Benefit Luncheon
May 2, 2013
Herndon, VA - Good afternoon.
Thank you, Caroline.
Secretary Salazar and the members of the National Park Service, thank you for your dedication to our many national treasures, including the National Mall. And thank you to Chairman Chip Akridge for leading this large-scale effort.
As many of you know, the National Mall has been called America’s front yard, but at VW, we see it as even more than that….it’s a front yard on a corner lot on Main Street USA, with a sign that says, “please come on over!” This is where visitors from across the US and around the world can share the American experience…... It really is a unique meeting place.
This is where American democracy comes to life — it’s where you can watch the peaceful transfer of power between presidents or exercise cherished rights of free speech. It is a place to learn, to play, to rally, to relax, to exercise. It’s also a place to be inspired and to honor those who have given their lives for this great country and its allies.
Volkswagen is truly honored to join the Trust for National Mall and the National Park Service in the efforts to restore, improve and protect this unique global landmark.
Now, some might wonder why a German car company with a British US CEO would get involved here. The answer is linked to Volkswagen’s past, but it is even more deeply rooted in our present and the future.
Volkswagen has been part of American life for more than 60 years. The Volkswagen Beetle became a cultural touchstone for an entire generation — so much so that when the Smithsonian added the 15th million Beetle to its collection in 1972, an official called it “the mid-twentieth century equivalent of the famous and beloved Model T Ford.”
Today Volkswagen is defined by a new generation of cars that meet modern needs and anticipate the future. And today we are more deeply rooted in American life than ever before. We’ve invested more than $4 billion in the US since 2008, including building the most technologically advanced and environmentally friendly auto plant in the world – indeed it’s the only platinum-LEED certified plant worldwide – in Chattanooga, Tennessee producing our award-winning Passat.
And, we are now entering the next stage of our long-term growth plans with additional investments of more than 5 billion dollars earmarked for the North America by 2015.
We’ve also committed more than $7 million to support education programs in Tennessee and in Virginia. We’re supporting cultural institutions, charitable organizations and environmental programs. We’re dedicated to being a good partner, not only on the roads but in our communities.
Supporting the Trust for National Mall is part of that commitment. The goals and values that motivate this ambitious renovation project are closely aligned with Volkswagen’s.
There will be a strong focus on sustainability. Volkswagen is leading the way to sustainable mobility by expanding the boundaries of fuel efficiency and re-useability. Our “Think Blue” sustainability strategy focuses on every stage of car’s lifecycle, from design, to production, through operation to eventual re-cycling.
Engineering and technology — the foundation for Volkswagen’s success — will play a major role in restoring and revitalizing the Mall.
The new National Mall will put more emphasis on education, an issue of critical importance for us and other engineering based companies.
And, without question, this project will ensure that the Mall remains a place for enjoyment and fun — traits that we hope will always be associated with Volkswagen.
We work hard at Volkswagen to protect and defend our brand and all that it stands for. We approach this project with similar determination. This is not just about improving the environment and the infrastructure along the Mall; it is about protecting and defending a living symbol of American democracy. It is about sustaining a vision with global appeal. And let’s face it — the Mall needs help.
Even if you are not originally from here, but if you have spent time in the Washington area, you have probably experienced a sense of pride when you show visitors around the National Mall. As a Brit, I’ve often commented how special it is to have such a concentrated area of history, power, culture and activity all in one place. It is as if Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament were all in one location. The National Mall and all of its components should be treated like a treasure but sadly, it is now in a serious state of disrepair.
Volkswagen wants to help do something about that.
I am very pleased to announce that Volkswagen has committed $10 million to the Trust for the National Mall to support the next phase of restoration and improvement. And hopefully we can also encourage support from others as well.
I know many of you have been active in this cause for years. I thank you for your commitment. And as the new co-chair of the Campaign for the National Mall, I welcome your advice. The Mall is a monumental symbol of America, and we need a monumental campaign to restore it. We need more support from the business community. I hope Volkswagen’s commitment will prompt other companies to do their part to protect and preserve this special place.
Making these types of long-term commitments is like watching our children grow. You have many hopes for growth and development. It is our hope that the National Mall continues to develop as an enduring legacy for all Americans and for visitors from around the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are honored to join in this effort to ensure that this American treasure remains a vibrant global gathering place for generations to come.
And now it is my pleasure to turn it over to Caroline Cunningham
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