business news in context, analysis with attitude

On Tuesday, Michael Sansolo dedicated his "Sansolo Speaks" column to a 60 Minutes interview in which Herbert Diess, the CEO of Volkswagen, talked about major changes taking place at the automaker.  "'Historically, there aren’t many cases where successful companies in the old world can demonstrate they are successful in the new world,' he says in the interview. For Volkswagen that means also accepting the changed reality of competition."

One MNB reader took exception to the treatment:

The timing of Sansolo’s laudatory piece ignores the part of the 60 Minutes story that talks about how VW cheated emissions regulations (and their customers). It also ignored how 60 Minutes highlighted their factories in Russia (which they seemed reluctant to close because they have “loyal” employees) and in China (suspiciously close to the Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang).

Additionally- this piece comes on the same day that the New York Times published a piece on how the VW heirs are unapologetic about the Nazi ties to their original success.

To liken the VW electric pivot to the retail grocery landscape seems at best unfortunate and at worst, a conscious look in the opposite direction of their hideous corporate history. This company had had more malfeasances than laudable success and, sadly, Sansolo minimized this by saying simply, “the company doesn’t have a perfect track record.” 

Please consider illuminating more of the VW story. You know as well as anyone, it’s not just the product that matters, but the company culture. 

I asked Michael to respond:

This note is completely correct. In trying to make a point about re-invention (which I do think is incredibly important) I far too quickly slid past some less than positive points in the Volkswagen story.

First, part of the impetus for the company's move to electric vehicles was a scandal surrounding VW's diesel cars, for which smog and economy numbers were falsified. And secondly, the company does have a very questionable manufacturing situation in China.

Lastly, let's not forget that VW's origin story - as a creation of Hitler's Germany - is pretty awful too. However, the current CEO was not part of the recent scandals and his insight on the challenge of changing a successful company was the essence of my article.

But context always matters and I thank this MNB reader for making her point.

To quote the Content Guy … Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.