Monday, September 28, 2015

VW will bounce back stronger for learning the lesson of Open Business

It's all too easy to join in with the doom and gloom brigade about VW. They have done very naughty things. And they have been caught doing them.
But let's have a little context here. The auto industry has long been accused of tweaking its test performance figures in its favour.
It is not unheard of for motorcycles to be tested with their wing mirrors off and tyres pumped up to super-high pressures to reduce drag, for example.
The car industry is no different with much hemming and hawing from both public and press over their claimed mpg figures for decades. We haven't trusted those figures for a long time. VW's re-calibrated version of the emissions truth is arguably just further along the same continuum.
Even so, all of a sudden VW, and much of the rest of the car industry (don't forget GM and Toyota are both currently paying hefty fines for misleading the public, according to Automotive News Europe and BMW's share price is plummeting on concerns about their emissions) have a mountain to climb to rebuild trust.


Lack of trust is a drag on performance of the intangibles of a business: So your trust in the VW brand will have reduced. That will have some impact on your car choices. But so will how much you desire their designs, mechanical reliability and performance, build quality, drive quality, comfort, style, the sound the doors make, the cache of the badge etc etc. In other words whether or not you trust the absolute veracity of their performance figures is just one parameter and, when the dust settles, perhaps a far less important one than the feeling you get from driving it. Or simply how much you want that car.
So my guess is VW, et al, will bounce back. Nose bloodied, bowed and ready to be better, more open businesses for their experience.
They will be reborn as organisations for whom trust IS more important in future and in which the governance is aligned with building trust.


For example, if they had performed their testing out in the open in the first place they would not be in the trouble they are today.
In the connected car future they will be able to aggregate real-world results from real world users results, in real time, and share those results with all drivers and to anyone else who requires them via open data.
All of this is very do-able with the technologies of the connected car.
Combine this with a new regime of open governance ensuring accurate measurement, and VW has the opportunity to respond and leap ahead of their rivals for trust.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?