Tuesday 18 June 2019

Lifting the bonnet on the VW emissions scandal

Tale of executive arrogance more shocking than fiction, writes Martin Love

Anger: The disclosures sent shockwaves across the world
Anger: The disclosures sent shockwaves across the world

Campbell Spray, Motoring Editor

It's less than 21 months since the news surfaced that one of the most trusted and popular car brands ever had deliberately misled millions of their customers. Faster, Higher, Farther: The Inside Story of the Volkswagen Scandal presents a shocking and incredibly compelling expose of one of the great corporate scandals of all time, revealing a gripping tale of executive arrogance that led to the downfall of one of the world's most prestigious brands.

Author Jack Ewing, an esteemed New York Times journalist, has covered the story from the day the news broke and has followed it ever since, acquiring unprecedented access to key players and a ringside seat during the past and ongoing legal proceedings.

In September 2015, when news of the Volkswagen clean diesel fraud broke, it sent shockwaves across the world. Consumers were angered, investors were panicked and the company was left humiliated, as lawsuits and criminal investigations piled up.

By August 2016, Volkswagen had settled with American regulators and car-owners for $15bn, with additional fines and claims still looming. However, here and in the UK and Europe, settlements have yet to be made.

Ewing documents Volkswagen's rise from "the people's car" during the Nazi era to one of Germany's most prestigious and important global brands, touted for being "green", to its then bitter fall in Faster, Higher, Farther.

He paints vivid portraits of Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech and chief executive Martin Winterkorn, arguing that their unremitting ambition drove employees, working feverishly in pursuit of impossible sales targets, to illegal methods.

He also describes how Volkswagen, a great corporate success story, was gravely undermined by the company's lack of ethical foundation.

The book reads like a fast-paced thriller, as one revelation leads to another. As is so often the case, truth can be so much more shocking than fiction. It's a compelling tale.

  • Faster, Higher, Farther: The Inside Story of the Volkswagen Scandal by Jack Ewing (Bantam Press, €24.69)

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