Ferdinand Piech is ‘root cause’ of VW scandal, according to Bob Lutz
As questions about Volkswagen’s emissions scandal continue to swirl, Bob Lutz argues that responsibility rests on the shoulders of one man at the top: Ferdinand Piech.
Piech may not have even been aware of the emissions cheats, however the former VW Group chairman maintained a “reign of terror and a culture where performance was driven by fear and intimidation,” according to Lutz’ op-ed published Road & Track.
The former General Motors executive recalls congratulating Piech in the ’90s when VW debuted its fourth-generation Golf with impressive body fits. The German executive reportedly responded by telling Lutz that he ordered all of the body engineers and manufacturing executives into a conference room and threatening to fire them.
“I have all your names,” Piech allegedly told attendees at his meeting. “If we do not have good body fits in six weeks, I will replace all of you.”
Lutz suggests the same attitude permeated VW’s entire management structure. If engineers could not bring emissions down to compliant levels while developing the offending engines, and if a urea-injection system was ruled out due to cost considerations, the engineers may have been threatened to find a solution — any solution — or face expulsion from the company.
“That management style gets short-term results, but it’s a culture that’s extremely dangerous,” Lutz says. “This diesel fiasco is immeasurable in terms of damages — so much worse than Toyota acceleration, Ford Firestone tires, or GM ignition switches.”
Notably, Lutz was responsible for GM product development during the 2000s. He has been associated with the problematic corporate culture that prioritized cost cutting over safety as engineers worked on the 2003 Saturn Ion, the first car to integrate the defective ignition switch that has ultimately been associated with at least 124 deaths.