CEO Says It Could Be 'Years' Before Volkswagen Gets Its Corporate Culture Under Control

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
ceo says it could be years before volkswagen gets its corporate culture under

Volkswagen has attempted to portray itself as a kinder and more responsible automaker in the wake of its emissions cheating scandal. However, CEO Matthias Müller says convincing middle management to change has proven exceptionally difficult. VW has been pushing to become — or at least seem like — a more transparent company that has decentralized its rigid management hierarchy.

“There are definitely people who are longing for the old centralistic leadership,” Müller stated during a meeting with business representatives on Monday. “I don’t know whether you can imagine how difficult it is to change their mindset.”

It’s been 20 months since the diesel emissions scandal entered the news cycle and Müller took over as chief executive. Throughout that time, VW’s top executives have tossed mid-level employees under the bus on numerous occasions. While there is little reason to doubt some might have trouble adjusting to a new corporate climate, it would be nice to hear top brass taking any semblance of responsibility once in a while — even on something minor like this.

In an earlier interview with Reuters, VW’s head of human resources, Karlheinz Blessing, stated that remolding the company would take some time.

The HR chief indicated the company has been gradually introducing internal changes to eliminate the number of special committees, move managers around more regularity, and streamline the development of new models. But Blessing also displayed some worry over the pace at which VW’s management style is changing. And that’s what makes this so odd: faulting middle management as the problem when the decision-making process is so clearly top-down.

Volkswagen typically grooms existing employees for decades before they’re allowed to wear big boy shoes, Matthias Müller included, and its inter-familial power struggles are on par with TV’s Dallas. Earlier this year, former VW chairman Ferdinand Piech accused other company executives of having ignored his warnings of an impending scandal relating to diesel emissions — throwing doubts into VW’s official timeline of the crisis. Volkswagen officially denied Piech’s claims and his own family ousted him from the automotive industry entirely.

Stuttgart prosecutors are currently investigating whether Müller and two other Volkswagen top executives, including ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn, manipulated markets by withholding pertinent information about VW’s diesel cheating.

But, no, it’s those pesky middle managers gumming up the works, claims the CEO. It’s just so hard for them for some reason. “Of course there are anxieties, it’s not an easy undertaking,” Müller said. “The only question is how long will it take?”

According to Reuters, Müller also criticized U.S. ride-hailing firm Uber — a potential rival to VW’s own on-demand transportation service Moia, currently in development. “I would not want us to be compared culturally with Uber,” he said. “That is no role model for us.”

[Image: Volkswagen AG]

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2 of 7 comments
  • Null Set Null Set on May 23, 2017

    The author of the article, as others have noted, has naively conflated VW's malfeasance in the diesel escandalo with the extraordinary difficulty of fundamentally changing the culture of a huge, multi-national corporation, an undertaking that almost always fails, and when it succeeds takes a generation (death being the only reliable engine of change). If VW were pure as the (diesel) driven snow, it would have exactly the same mountain to climb, or fall from, as it does now.

  • Akear Akear on May 24, 2017

    Who cares about their culture they are now the number automaker in the world!!! I am more worried about GM and their dwindling market share and stock price.

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that