Just like any other chief executive, Maritn Winterkorn’s demands for his team of managers were high and his tolerance for failure was close to zero. But there are now voices pointing to unusually high pressure at the carmaker, another string in the unfolding diesel cheating crisis.
Not even a month has passed since the world’s largest automaker by sales acknowledged it had rigged diesel emission tests in the US, sparking the biggest crisis in its 78-year history, but pressure is mounting to deliver those responsible. With all of VW’s issues at large and the long-running chief executive gone from the helm, there are voices pointing out the company needs a different strategy. “We have to streamline our processes,” commented Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn in front of US lawmakers questioning him about the illegal software that has cast a shadow on the company’s integrity and corporate culture. “We need in future a climate in which problems aren’t hidden but can be openly communicated to superiors,” commented even before Bernd Osterloh, a member of VW’s supervisory board, who represents employees.
“The culture and organizational structure of Volkswagen are not comparable to Daimler or BMW, it is something specific,” comments Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, a professor and automotive expert at the University of Duisburg-Essen. The special pressure translated from the management style under Winterkorn that delivered an authoritarian climate, backed by the free hand given by the company’s supervisory board. The former top exec also has its own supporters, who claim he and his team of top engineers would have never approved the cheating.