Scene at VW's PR department (dramatization.)
Rule number one during a crisis is “total clarity and honesty” as UK-based PR consultant and former lawyer Chris Shaw just said. Actually, that should be the ROE even during peacetime, but never mind. Being brutally open and honest is not a matter of morals, but of expediency. Volkswagen’s PR still needs to learn a rule that helped Ford, Toyota, Johnson & Johnson and more survive their live-threatening crises. Volkswagen is in the midst of a “grave crisis” as Martin Winterkorn said before he left, but Volkswagen’s PR machine is still producing clouds of toxic vapor.
Volkswagen confirmed that cheater software is in 11 million diesel cars worldwide, and that the chameleon code was used to dupe emissions tests in the USA (a process called FTP75.) So far, so bad.
When asked by the U.K. magazine Autocar whether cheat software was employed during New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) testing, a spokesman for VW cranked up a smoke machine that already was in high gear in the past days.
The spokesman said: “We can’t comment whether the software for the FTP75 was on specific cars used in European tests, simply because at this time, we are preparing an accurate list of models with EA189 engines. We don’t have the answer for each specific car yet.”
Give me a break. Volkswagen knows EXACTLY which models used the EA189. Claiming you don’t know what’s written in the catalog is unmitigated bovine bowel movement. Also, each test is 100% documented, and filed, temperature, humidity, phase of the moon. This is Volkswagen, where we joked that before files are shredded, four copies are being made. Also, VW can’t shake the bad habit of giving elaborate answers to questions that weren’t asked. Autocar didn’t ask whether the FTP75 software was used in Europe. They wanted to know whether cheater software was used during EU tests. If you don’t want to incriminate yourself, VW, simply say “no comment.”
When Autocar’s Chief Editor Jim Holder sent me a link to his story, I recommended to him that absent of clear answers, we have no other choice than to assume that Volkswagen cheated on all EU tests of cars with the EA189. An assumption that probably is much closer to the truth than the spokesman.
When Winterkorn left, he stated that the “the process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust.”
Apparently, this belated revelation has already been forgotten. Who listens to a disgraced CEO anyway?