“We have broken the trust” says the CEO of Volkswagen – Anybody think this is the only company to break our trust?

Martin Winterkorn , CEO, Volkswagen
Martin Winterkorn, CEO, Volkswagen

“I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public.”
Martin Winterkorn , CEO, Volkswagen


I have so many friends tell me, in different ways, that we have too many regulations. They say, in one way or another, that we should trust the integrity of the people leading our companies.

And then, something like this Volkswagen revelation comes along.

And then, my friends say something like this: “well, that was just an outlier.” I’m not so sure about that.

Here’s this story. Volkswagen designed software, on purpose, that would lower emissions only during an emissions test. The rest of the time the vehicle polluted far above the legal limit.

Read this brief description, from the Business Insider article:

The EPA accused the company of fitting its US diesel cars with software that activates the pollution controls only when the car is undergoing official emissions testing.

The cars with the software — called a “defeat device” — would pollute at 10 to 40 times the legal limits when driven normally, the EPA estimated.

The Volkswagen CEO apologized for violating the rules. In other words, he basically said, “yep, we did it. And we finally got caught at it.”

One analyst put it this way:

“This is bad stuff. It smells of lack of control, hubris and denial.”

So, go back to the statement from the CEO:

“I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public.”

What is he sorry for? Is he sorry that they cheated and lied?  Is he sorry he got caught?  How exactly did they break the trust? By doing something fully illegal? By doing this, and getting caught? They weren’t apologizing until they got caught, even though all along they knew what they were doing was fully illegal.

Maybe every claim a business leader makes has to be checked, and re-checked. Which CEO should we take at his/her word?

To quote Ronald Reagan, from a much different context: “Trust, but verify.”

Or, maybe to quote a current Presidential candidate, again from a different context, it should be this:

“Mistrust, and verify.”

This much I know. Volkswagen is not worthy of our trust – not one bit.

Are there other companies we should mistrust? My guess is yes.


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