Volkswagen’s Slow Recovery: An Update

We’ve spent a lot of time here talking about the ways Volkswagen can begin to recover from a catastrophic emissions cheating scandal—first in an analysis of VW executives’ public messaging and then a deep dive into the problems ahead for the company. Our advice has boiled down to: be transparent.

After all, it was likely an internal culture of secrecy and a lack of communication that got VW into this mess in the first place, and we believe the only way to restore any public faith or confidence in the company is to come clean, as quickly and as publicly as possible.
Among our suggestions are an independent examination of what went wrong—a truth commission of sorts—and even allowing a respected documentary filmmaker like Alex Gibney or Errol Morris into the inner offices with their cameras.

This week, we’re starting to see signs that VW might be heeding that call, at least partially. The Wall Street Journal reports that some of the company’s most prominent investors are pushing for an independent investigation into what went wrong (VW is already moving ahead with an internal investigation led by accounting firm Jones Day.) This independent inquiry, the Journal reported, wants to make sure that the company actually has enough money to cover its recall expenses and ensure that “controls and checks have been put in place to prevent further scandals.”

Both of these investigations are a step in the right direction, we think, towards a more open and accountable VW.

At the same time, though, some auto industry observers say it’s still business as usual at the company. For example, executives who left in the wake of the emissions scandal received so-called “golden parachutes,” or severance packages so generous that they turned heads in the industry, according to Jalopnik. And some investors, including a fund run by the country of Norway, have even turned to court to challenge the company’s actions before and after the scandal broke.

We’re not experts in regulatory affairs or emissions testing, but we do know how to communicate clearly, openly, and transparently with the public. That’s why we hope VW will do the same, before a series of lawsuits and independent investigations airs their dirty laundry for them.

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