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Opinion

Opinion: My goodness, VW!

Revelations of misdeeds at Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen are piling up like a veritable car crash. The German carmaker is going to need more than strong words from executives to clear its name, says DW's Henrik Böhme.

The latest revelations about VW's dirty emissions beg the question: What else do we not know? Of course everyone has expected more bad news to trickle out after the scandal broke in September, but now that trickle has turned into a deluge. Regulators in the US claim to keep finding evidence of further irregularities - and VW's own internal investigations don't seem to contradict that. Making matters worse for the Wolfsburg concern, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now saying VW may have improperly reported accident data.

The right people in place?

All of that represents a rather explosive mixture. Maybe, the newly appointed CEO, Matthias Müller, will not feel the partial explosions all at once, but it's hard enough for him to try and get the company back on track while not treading on all the mines ready to go off around him. All the more so since it's not clear at all whether the new protagonists at VW had not been involved in the scandal themselves.

Yes, Müller was Porsche's former chief and probably far away from whatever the VW tricksters came up with. But far away enough to not have known about the emission tests cheating at all? The same question can be asked with regard to Hans Dieter Pötsch, the company's former finance chief. He's now supervisory board chief and as such chief investigator, if you will.

Has Pötsch contributed anything lately to clearing up the scandal? Rather not. Following revelations about even more irregularities at VW, he only resorted to commonplaces, saying the revelations would encourage the company to double up their efforts to investigate the facts. Enough is enough!

Ticking time bomb

Maybe, they just haven't understood yet at VW that there's a ticking time bomb about to go off. Or they're fully aware of it, but want to head off panic among employees and shareholders. Well, that may be the intention. However, VW shares took a dive on Wednesday, and it may well get worse in the days and weeks to come.

DW's Henrik Böhme

DW's Henrik Böhme

Do the leading protagonists in Wolfsburg really know what's at stake? Their indecisive action is surely having an impact on German industry as a whole. After all, VW - alongside Siemens - is Germany's most important industrial giant. But what a mire must VW be in, if ever new irregularities is the only thing that's been communicated to the outside world so far?

Do something about it!

When will the public be informed thoroughly? VW car owners affected by the scandal are left in the dark about when exactly their vehicles will be recalled. Only once did the carmaker say in some major German newspapers that it was sorry for the scandal and would do everything to win back lost trust among consumers. That was a month ago. Was that really all? We get to read that it'll take a magnitude of different approaches in getting the cars fixed, dependent on engine types and sizes. So, is this the reason why VW is taking so long to finally get going?

No, but it shows that the company had simply spiraled out of control on its way to becoming the world's largest carmaker by sales. The new chief executive has at least moved away from a business model that has put production numbers first.

Now it's definitely time for action. The recalls need to start pretty soon; and compensation needs to be paid to clients where required. Something along these lines will have to happen. It seems obvious that it'll take years for VW to come to terms with the scandal at hand. But it's certainly not a good idea to let angry customers wait just as long!

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