A Lesson from the VW Diesel Graveyard

In the wake of Dieselgate, images have begun to circulate of vast Volkswagen wastelands across the US. 

The multi-billion-dollar settlement involves buying back more than 350,000 diesel-powered VW models. It’s arguably one of the most deceptive stories to ever come out of the automotive industry. 

These cars once were part of active American families, taking kids to school, racking up miles commuting to work, and parked on university campuses while school was in session. Now they’re relegated to a barren wasteland until they, eventually hit the shredder. 

But while people are quick to forget the details behind the VW emissions scandal, it’s a story that has an important lesson for all aspects of dealership life, not just manufacturers.

Actions Always Have Consequences

Who knew Volkswagen was cheating on emissions? It’s an extremely small fraction of their workforce – a minute piece of a single percent. Likely, in a small office somewhere, a few frustrated executives and engineers decided it would be okay to pull a fast one. No one would notice, right?  

Today, that decision has affected hundreds of thousands of people. Assembly line workers are out of jobs from the slowdown. Salespeople have been laid off by the thousands across the US and the rest of the globe. Hundreds of thousands of customers no longer trust Volkswagen and may never again. The price tag for buybacks is $7.4 billion, but that’s just a portion of the true cost of the problem. 

Own Your Mistakes

Could there have been a better outcome? Absolutely. It’s true, hindsight is 20/20. But all it would have taken to mitigate the damage from Dieselgate is for someone – anyone – to step forward, own the mistake, and seek a correction instead of covering it up.

It’s a Culture Thing

The lesson to learn from VW is a culture change. Everyone, from the top executives at the OEM down to the low-ranking people at the dealership, need to feel like they can be open and honest without fear of reprimand. 

Have you ever had a situation get blown out of proportion? It could be because a staff member was afraid to bring it to light earlier. Make your office, your service department, your sales floor, a safe harbor where employees can bring their grievances and concerns without being afraid of the consequences. 

That’s what a healthy company does: they listen to each other. When one person has a good idea, it’s followed up on. If someone makes a mistake, it gets fixed together. It’s all about communicating well and communicating openly. 

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