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VW and Hummer create new logos to help shed lingering image as polluters

Volkswagen wants the world to forget about its diesel-emission scandal. Hummer was the poster child for in-your-face gas guzzling but wants to shed that perception. Both brands want a brand-new, squeaky-clean image for making zero-emission vehicles. Hence, VW launched its new logo today, and Hummer filed a series of trademarks for its new logo in February.

If you’re not into parsing out how a logo shift, a different font, or two lines not touching anymore is something worth contemplating, then stop reading this post. It’s not for you.

But fellow font nerds might consider what Volkswagen today announced: “One of the largest rebranding campaigns in the world,” according to an official statement. A new logo with flatter and cleaner lines will begin rolling out throughout the world to 10,000 dealers in 171 markets spanning 154 countries. Cranes will lower the old VW logo and hoist up the new one.

The new style was first unveiled in September 2019 when the company introduced the ID.3 electric car. However, it will debut in the US as a vehicle badge on the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport, which averages 22 miles per gallon.

At that time, Klaus Bischoff, Volkswagen’s chief designer, said:

When we came up with the new car (the ID.3), this doesn’t fit anymore. We need something new.

ID3 logo

Today Bischoff added:

My personal drive in this redesign was to make the W float, bringing a new lightness to the Volkswagen brand.

New VW logo

Who cares? The W floats or it doesn’t. It’s still the same old logo. But the subtext is that VW wanted to lighten things up, and move on from the heaviness of the Dieselgate scandal, which is linked to about 1,200 premature deaths.

It’s not the first time that VW changed its logo to turn a new page. Volkswagen’s initial 1930s trademark was surrounded by what looks like a spinning swastika. The new logo launched today borrrows from the mid-1960s version — when the Beetle was a popular and groovy little car in America.

Old VW logos

Is VW the only company bothering to rebrand at a critical time of a shift in technology?

General Motors a couple of months ago officially filed to trademark a new Hummer logo for its upcoming electric pickup truck. The step was taken arguably to distance GM’s latest EV efforts from the brand image of Hummer as Enemy Number One for environmentalists. After all, it’s hard to imagine a brand that historically showed more disregard for fuel-efficiency.

A 2007 study by J.D. Power found that the Hummer H3 was the most-avoided model in its segment. Gas prices continued to rise in that era, and Hummer sales plummeted. It took three more years for GM to kill the brand.

Thirteen years later, it’s back. But General Motors needs to send some kind of a signal, even incredibly subtle, to convey that the all-electric reincarnation is something entirely new. So there is a new Hummer logo.

Like VW’s logo re-do, the Hummer uses a narrower typeface, although with harsh angles and still shouting in all caps.

We could only find a low-resolution copy of the new logo, but here it is below the old version.

GM filed to trademark the new logo on February 4. It will debut as a vehicle badge in fall 2021 when the first GMC Hummer EV rolls off the assembly line at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

Hummer Grille

Electrek’s Take

The new logos are design tweaks. They’re not so much intended to completely re-brand as to signal a change, even if subtle. It’s just typical, dumb marketing, right?

However, changing a corporate logo is not a trivial matter. The point is not whether or not VW and Hummer succeeded in making you feel anything different. It’s the motivation behind the effort.

But both VW and Hummer are making a change to leave behind the old gas-powered ways and head toward electrification. Why not use a visual marker, the emblem of the company itself, to note a different era for the companies?

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.