worker survey VW employees not impressed by management reforms

Two-thirds of VW's 120,000 workers find their bosses "unpersuasive" on the need for change.
Trouble may be brewing inside Volkswagen.

Following the scandal involving cheating in diesel emissions tests, Volkswagen vowed to change its culture by making the company more transparent and less dominated by old-fashioned hierarchies.

However, after two years of new management and a vow to revamp the culture at VW, employees of the company don’t believe much has been accomplished. A survey of the company’s 120,000 workers – 51,000 actually filled out a questionnaire -- found that only 25 percent agree that corporate culture has improved since the diesel scandal broke in 2015.

The survey, which was conducted by VW’s works council, the body of employees elected to represent the factory floor workers with management, also found that two-thirds of the employees found the company’s executives were “not persuasive” in their efforts to reform the company.

The survey can’t be welcome news for CEO Matthias Müller, who took charge soon after the scandal erupted with a promise to make big changes in the way the company is structured. “I don’t know whether you can imagine how difficult it is to change the mindset,” he told shareholders last May.

Among the chief complaints of the workers was the diesel scandal itself. They said they are dissatisfied with how VW deals with the scandal and complained that the company was providing workers with little information about the controversy, forcing them to get information from the news media.

Volkswagen admitted that it had installed a so-called defeat device on their diesel cars that would reduce nitric oxide emissions when the cars were examined on a test bed, but then produce much larger amounts of pollution on the open road. Some employees convicted in the US of breaking the environmental laws have said senior management must have been aware of the issue.

VW’s works council chief, Bernd Osterloh, said he wanted to get a quick reply from management about the workers’ concerns. “The vast majority of respondents felt that they are insufficiently integrated into the company’s future course,” Mr. Osterloh added.

VW reacted coolly to the survey results. “The results give us additional important information about where we need to get better,” said Karlheinz Blessing, the company’s director of human resources. “A cultural change cannot be implemented in the short-term, it takes time.”

Stefan Menzel is one of Handelsblatt's leading automotive reporters. Charles Wallace, an editor for Handelsblatt Global in New York, adapted this article into English To contact the author: [email protected].