Firms and Collective Reputation: A Study of the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal
48 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2019 Last revised: 13 May 2023
Date Written: July 2019
This paper uses the 2015 Volkswagen (VW) emissions scandal as a natural experiment to provide evidence that collective reputation externalities are economically significant. Using a combination of difference-in-differences and demand estimation approaches, we document a spillover effect from the scandal to the non-VW German auto manufacturers. The spillover amounts to an average drop of $2,057 in consumer valuations of these manufacturers’ vehicles and to a 34.6% reduction in their annual sales. We substantiate our interpretation that the estimates reflect a reputation spillover using data on internet search behavior and direct measures of consumer sentiment from Twitter.
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