Volkswagen Group has bolstered its existing contribution toward the relief and recovery efforts for Australia's tragic bushfires, announcing a $2.5 million donation today.
The company has earmarked $500,000 for fire services and those affected by the fires, with the remaining $2 million divided equally on reforestation and organisations involved with endangered wildlife.
The donation is the largest made by any single automotive body in response to this year's fires. As reported by CarAdvice last week, local car companies had combined contributed $1.623 million in confirmed financial donations to the bushfire relief effort. On top of confidential contributions and varied assistance programs, this new donation takes the tally to $4.123 million.
"Volkswagen has been part of Australian life since the 1950s. Therefore, we step up both to assist those at the forefront of this crisis and to aid in what will be a protracted recovery," said Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) managing director Michael Bartsch, himself a native Aussie.
Today's announcement follows the earlier launch of a GoFundMe page for employees, directing donations to the Rural Fire Authorities, WIRES, the Red Cross or the Lift Up Lithgow fundraiser. For every $1 donated by a VGA employee, VGA has pledged to contribute $2 up to $20,000. The nationwide dealer network is also conducting its own initiatives.
As part of the company's internal fundraising efforts, Bartsch – a well-known figure in the global automotive industry who has previously held executive posts with Porsche and Infiniti – offered to shave off his moustache as an added incentive.
Described as an "old growth of 40 years", Bartsch's mo has long been a familiar sight to industry and media in Australia and North America. The offer to expose the top lip was on the condition of staff and dealers donating $10,000 to the NSW Wildlife Rescue Service (WIRES).
With donations surpassing $11,000 (of nearly $20,000 in total internal donations to bushfire-related causes) today, the lip warmer was removed at Chullora Barber Shop.
The move follows a more permanent mark inked into the ankle skin of Volkswagen UK boss and Australian expat Andrew Savvas (below), who raised AU$30,000 – well beyond an initial $2000 target – through his own online fundraiser.
Launched in support of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia, Savvas's fundraiser resulted in a pair of fresh kangaroo tattoos – one on each ankle.