Features

Back to Library >
ti icon

Features

VW and tough lessons learned

1 year ago

Writer:

Andrew English | Journalist

Date:

6 July 2021

Time was (and I remember it well), you could phone up Volkswagen’s R&D director and ask him for help with an obscure technical point. Admittedly Prof Ulrich Seiffert was an exceptional man in exceptional times – and you didn’t abuse the privilege. But it really did happen. On a similar vein, Carl Hahn, VW chairman between 1982 and 1993, wasn’t above sitting opposite you at supper, speaking movingly of his parents and relatives still in East Germany and giving his heartfelt commitment to doing whatever he could for German reunification.

Back then, if you asked VW management a straight question, you’d get a straight answer: communication was both open and open-hearted. These days, VW, damaged by Dieselgate and the trust issues arising therefrom, and facing a cash crunch as fines are levied and an ambitious-but-risky electric strategy is pursued, seems more insular, less open to scrutiny and less willing to engage in debate.

So ‘answers’ are written before an ‘event’ by VW’s communications officers, then journalists’ questions are bowdlerised into obsequious opportunities to broadcast the correct message.

Start your 30-day free trial to continue reading this article.

Begin free trial

Already subscribed? Click here to log in.