Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Cheating Scandal 

The Volkswagen diesel emissions test cheating scandal and its various offshoots have had a far-reaching impact on a wide range of parties.

This impact has been financial, environmental, political, and regulatory. The parties affected include car owners, Volkswagen’s leadership team and employees, shareholders, car dealers, government officials, regulatory agencies, the media, the automotive industry, and even the Made-in-Germany brand.

To date, Volkswagen has been assessed or agreed to over $24B in fines, penalties, and compensatory payments to car owners. One Volkswagen employee is serving an 18-month jail term in South Korea. Another is serving 40 months in a U.S. federal prison and was assessed a $200,00 fine, even after copping a plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice.

It was shocking enough to see these two mid-level leaders receive jail terms. But then last year a senior Volkswagen executive, Oliver Schmidt, was sentenced to seven years in jail and fined $400,000 for his role in the Dieselgate scandal. And this was after he made his own plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Five of their colleagues in Germany have been indicted on felony charges by a U.S. grand jury and have been warned not to leave their home country.Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Cheating Scandal

The Volkswagen Saga is a story of deliberate corporate malfeasance that has impacted the automaker’s car brands, leadership structure, governance, corporate reputation, current and future financial results, and its corporate culture. I wrote about this story and its many lessons for leaders in my book Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Saga.

It is a story full of leadership lessons on ethics, corporate governance, branding, crisis communications, corporate responsibility, and individual accountability relevant to leaders of any size organization. And, as I pointed out almost a year ago, the Volkswagen cheating scandal is far from over, and the repercussions from the Dieselgate saga will continue for years.

Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Saga nails the teachings and learnings stemming from what is now the benchmark for corporate cheating and corporate scandals.


Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Saga is the first book to be published on the automaker’s emissions test cheating scandal. The book is now available on Amazon in both Kindle ($8.88) and paperback ($18.88) formats.

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