Volkswagen-Suzuki Row: Bloomberg Lost In Translation

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Yesterday, Bloomberg poured gasoline into the smoldering embers that used to be a Volkswagen-Suzuki relationship. Bloomberg said that Suzuki doesn’t want to talk to Volkswagen. The trouble is: Bloomberg most likely is wrong. Bloomberg and the world at large became a victim of Lost in Translation.

It is no secret that the bloom is off the rose between Suzuki and Volkswagen. Nothing new had transpired about the strained relationship ever since Osamu Suzuki himself turned into a blogger and said that he was “somewhat uncomfortable with the statement” that Volkswagen can influence corporate policy at Suzuki. Osamu Suzuki stressed that “the two companies agreed to remain independent partners on an equal footing when we signed the partnership in the first place.”

A little later, Hans Demant, now at Volkswagen responsible for strategic alliances and partnerships, tried to calm the waters: “Volkswagen and Suzuki are and remain independent,” Demant told Manager Magazin. After that it became quiet – until yesterday.

Yesterday, Bloomberg had a piece out that was mainly warmed-over material from the archives, except for one explosive sentence:

“Volkswagen is not talking to us,” Osamu Suzuki, the Hamamatsu City, Japan-based company’s chairman, said in an interview. “We have no plans to talk to them.”

Suzuki and Volkswagen no longer on taking terms? That’s BIG! The wire piece raced around the world and was eagerly picked up, from Automotive News [sub] to World News. The trouble is: It is most likely bunk. No official confirmation can be obtained. However, amongst the tight-knit gaggle of Tokyo auto business beat reporters, the following version is making the rounds:

The interview is so short because Bloomberg waylaid Osamu Suzuki in Hamamatsu. They were brushed off with one sentence. Which then was mangled in the Japanese to English translation. This according to a source familiar with the rumor.

Instead of “Volkswagen is not talking to us. We have no plans to talk to them,” Osamu Suzuki allegedly mumbled “How can we comment when VW hasn’t said anything to us?”

Off he was. End of interview. Now that would change things a lot, wouldn’t you say?

Of course, if Bloomberg provides a video where Osamu Suzuki says “Volkswagen wa watashi tachi ni hanasanai. Watashi tachi no karera to hanasu yotei wa nai” (or Japanese words to that effect) and not “Dono you ni watashi tachi wa. Volkswagen ni tai shite comment sure ba yoi no daroka” (or Japanese words to that effect), then we take it all back and provide the requisite 90 degree bow. In front of running cameras.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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2 of 4 comments
  • -Cole- -Cole- on Sep 07, 2011

    Who But Bertel, would provide this correction.

  • I_godzuki I_godzuki on Sep 08, 2011

    Given it's a rumor, maybe someone should ask the Bloomberg reporters who wrote the story for more detail. Suzuki or whoever it is may have a good reason to say it's a mistranslation if Osamu has spoken out of turn. Also, they have their email addresses at the bottom of the story, so it's not like they're hard to find.

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