The biggest lesson learnt from the VW scandal

Integrity  n.  The quality of being honest and having strong moral and ethical principles.


There have been so many articles written about the VW scandal since it all blew up that there are barely enough hours in the day to read them all - so rather than read them all, I thought I'd jump on the "Volksbandwagen" and make my own comment.

Now that the smoke has started to blow over (seriously, no pun intended) from the fallout, I thought I'd share with you what I consider to be the most important lesson that the corporate sector can learn.

As a business, we all want a slice of the pie - but just how big does that slice need to be? And to what lengths will you go to get that slice? The trouble is, people get greedy, whether it be greed for fame, or just good old fashioned monetary greed, and that's where it all starts to go downhill.

I have worked for companies where the presenting team has told an out-and-out lie in order to beef up the sales pitch. It made me cringe. I was brought up in an honest home and was taught the difference between right and wrong, so lying is not an option for me. I'd be a dead give-away, anyway - I'd start sweating, tugging at my collar as my face turned bright red, all the usual give-aways. Yes, there is shame in dishonesty.


Got caught

Do you remember the comedy, Porridge, that ran in the 1970s? For those of you that haven't seen it, Fletcher is in prison for 5 years and is doing his best to make life easy for himself inside. In one episode he is talking to the new warden, Mr. Beal, who asks him, "What you in for?"

The reply is, "Got caught".

Simple as that. The crime is irrelevant.

And VW got caught in the act, red handed. They had built up one hell of a global reputation, so why did anybody in the company think they needed to pull this stunt?

I surmise that somebody (or somebodies) within VW dreamt up this idea possibly for any of these reasons:

  1. It would bring great kudos to the originators of the scheme
  2. They didn't want to make the necessary investment in order to achieve the emissions figures
  3. They weren't capable of producing the emissions figures they needed



If you can't achieve recognition and reward without bullshitting then you don't deserve it in the first place.


If you aren't prepared to make necessary investment even though the funds are available, you are setting yourself up for a fail.


If you don't possess the knowledge or expertise to achieve certain goals, then so be it. In order to remain competitive you have to either nurture or recruit that talent.


Cheats never prosper

So there we have it, Europe's biggest car manufacturer faces the worst crisis in its history with 11 million vehicles affected worldwide.

10 senior managers have already been suspended.

A survey by Puls in Germany showed that 41% of consumers see the VW brand as damaged long term.

Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported that 11% say they no longer want to buy a VW.

A survey of 460 UK fleet managers revealed that 49% said they were reviewing their deals with VW.

Resale values of VW vehicles are bound to plummet.

The penalties and damages resulting from the scandal are estimated to be anything up to €100 billion (c. £74 billion).

More significantly, the Volkswagen scandal has the potential to deeply unsettle the German economy which is heavily reliant on the car industry. Just where will it end?


Complete transparency

This is a catastrophic state of affairs. Innocent people may lose their jobs just because somebody thought it would be a good idea to cheat. You cannot circumvent the system, no matter how smart you are. You will eventually be found out. If you think you can beat the system and get away with it, you are a fool.

Although I feel sorry for owners of VW cars and those innocent victims who could potentially lose their jobs over this, nothing warms my heart more than a discovery like this, where the rat is flushed out and exposed for all to see. And I don't mean VW, I am referring to the crook(s) who masterminded the scam.

So what about the customers? It's fair to say that your customers and any potential customers expect complete transparency and honesty 100% of the time. I can't think of any reason why I would need to tell a lie. If I screw up, I tell them. If they ask for a service we can't offer, I tell them we can't do it, but we'll look into it and come back to them with a proposition if we can. If we still can't do it, I tell them that we can't.

Back to the most important lesson that the corporate sector can learn. It's a very simple mantra:

Make your clients trust you.

Give them reasons to trust you and do not give them any reason to not trust you. Relationships, personal and business, are built on trust. Once you have established trust, you have done the hardest part of the job and the rest should be plain sailing.

Remember, if you can't be magnanimous in defeat, don't compete.


Celsium is a relocation management company based in the UK, focusing on domestic and inbound UK relocation services to businesses relocating their employees. 

One of Celsium's core values is Integrity  n.  The quality of being honest and having strong moral and ethical principles.

If you would like to learn more about Celsium and the way we operate, please navigate to


Image by Kyle May

Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK