Rafael Puyol. Executive Vice President. IE Foundation

30 November 2015

The worst thing about the Volkswagen scandal is that it has resulted in a growing mistrust throughout society of institutions that used to inspire confidence.

I’m probably one of those people affected by Volkswagen’s emissions scam. Without meaning to I may be polluting the air more than I previously thought, air that we all need to be purer and cleaner. That really annoys me as I have always defended the need for better and more control of emissions that are harmful for the environment.

My grandmother had an old housekeeper called Luciana who, whenever she saw someone on the TV she thought was behaving suspiciously, used to say “Who does he think he’s kidding?” It was her way of saying that her eagle eye for sneaky goings on meant that she knew for sure that the person was up to no good.

I remembered Luciana when I visited a winery in La Rioja the other day.  The guide who was showing us round proclaimed that the wines were made from the wineries own vineyards, all of which produced grapes of a markedly superior quality. He insisted that said grapes were never mixed with any from anywhere else that might not be of the same standard. At that, one of the other visitors piped up: “Oh yes? Volkswagen told us all that their cars were clean, and look what happened there!” This observation had me worried, because it shows a new attitude displayed by many people that what happened at Volkswagen made them far less trusting of business corporations in general. Yes, if Volkswagen, which was considered be a serious manufacturer, tricked us all, what will other firms, with a supposedly far lesser track record for seriousness do to us? And that’s why I think that the company has not only harmed itself and the value of other German and European brands, but it has also fuelled a drop in confidence in institutions that hitherto inspired trust.  It’s like it has broken the cornerstone of one of our most revered pillars of the corporate world.

We don’t believe promises made by political parties, we have always had our doubts about many public institutions, but now we’re starting to doubt everything. Volkswagen has brought added impetus to the saying “Don’t trust ANYone.” That’s bad, because we’re left bereft of rock solid references that we can rely on. And that’s a real shame.


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