Little Napolean casts a long shadow
Some years ago, Porsche had an engineer who was responsible for the factory racing program. He was, and remains a man with sociopathic tendencies. Because he is part of the Piech-Porsche cousinage, he was tolerated, but after the development of the 917 race car, he was encouraged to leave, a dangerous man consumed by ambition and his own sense of importance. He went to Audi where he built the brand and rose to the top and valuable engineers were burned along the way. Men like this have to keep destroying decent people in order to keep the rest of the executive team in line.
Little Napoleon rose to the top of the entire VW group, woe betide anybody who challenged him. He demonstrated that he could demand virtually anything, and get it, all it cost was money and engineers, well VW had plenty of both of those. Anybody dealing with VW and its subsidiaries and the people who were running the show became used to the sudden disappearances of capable pleasant hard working bosses over night. Group executives subsumed themselves to groupthink, if they wished to survive, it was worse than the situation at Neutron Jack Welch's GE.
It didn't matter how stupid or unreasonable the idea was, anybody who disagreed was out. Little Napoleon knew that he was and is a monster, to get his silly Bugatti Veyron project completed, he had to go outside VW and appeal to a mega rich motor racing banker to take over the project, because it was 'interesting', in order to bring it to fruition, doing it 'his way', was burning through more engineers that even VW could afford. In the meantime, people who had dealings with VW would advice their own colleagues and friends not to do business with VW, unless they wished to beaten down to a level that over the years the business was no longer profitable, As German colleagues put it VAG negotiate to the third decimal place.
So there was a culture of fear and decent people, and I include Martin Winterkorn amongst them,, learned not to step out of line, no matter how unrealistic the demands that are made upon them. Even apparently decent people learned to behave like monsters to survive.
To add to this hideous culture, governments and scientists must take some responsibility as the notion of diesel passenger cars supported by dishonest definitions of what was harmful in diesel exhaust residues was allowed to dominate a large section of the climate change debate. As cities around the world are now learning, diesel passenger cars are a bad idea and governments need to discourage, not favour them.
Volkswagen needs to change.but it does not need to be destroyed. Lets just stop making small diesel engines. Oddly, about 12/13 years ago I was at a VW Group shindig during the Le Mans 24 Hour race and mentioned to my charming hosts that betting the shop on diesel was a really bad idea, the first reaction of all those i spoke to was to whip round to make sure that nobody was listening and then to refute my statement in slightly dismissive terms.
Given the culture developed by Little Napoleon, I was reminded of the fable of the Emperor's New Clothes.