NOW LOOK, if the Germans didn’t want us to enjoy their suffering perhaps they shouldn’t have invented the word schadenfreude.
There was a definite frisson of enjoying the suffering of others as Sven Stein, director of Volkswagen in Japan, stepped on to the stage at the Tokyo Motor Show this week and begged for forgiveness.
“I would like to apologise to the Japanese people for breaking your trust,” Stein (pictured top left) said, tears possibly welling up in his eyes. And then he bowed, deep and long, to the crowd, and Japan in general, in shamed silence.
I feared he might be about to produce a seppuku sword and ritually disembowel himself, but he merely said sorry a few more times about the whole diesel thing, which has been particularly uncomfortable in Japan where the company was just about to introduce diesel models for the first time.
“We still plan to introduce diesel engines in Japan,” Stein said, hopefully. “But we are reviewing our timing.”
Apparently the fourth of Never has been etched into a calendar.
Clearly Stein’s apology wasn’t high-level enough, however, because he introduced Dr Herbert Diess (pictured top right), the new and very brave CEO of Volkswagen passenger cars.
“On behalf of our entire company I would like to apologise for our actions, which went against everything that our company and our people stand for,” Dr Diess said, probably wiping sorry snot from his nose, but not actually bowing.
He went on to promise that VW would do everything it could to win back trust, would come up with technical fixes for the diesel “problems” and “uncover and reveal” what had happened and ensure that it never happened again.
This caused a few titters from the slavering world media, as he appeared to be treating Dieselgate as some kind of mystery, an inexplicable event that only Sherlock Holmes could get to the bottom of. We looked on the hard drive, and under the couch, and we can’t find any evidence of this highly suspect software that some naughty person must have signed off on, but we don’t know who.
Dr Diess soon changed tack to talk about a future based around increasing investment in electric vehicles, which will have a range of 500km, making cars more internet-centric and just generally never mentioning the D word again.
“Despite the current challenges we feel positive about the future. Our brand can build on our strong values and they will be the basis of winning back trust,” he said.
Mr Stein then returned to play a bit of Look! Over here! Something non-diesel by unveiling a Tiguan GTE concept.
The plug-in hybrid, built on the MQB platform, can drive up to 50km on electric-only power, or even further if the weather is good, because it features a solar module that can contribute up to 1000km a year of extra motive power. And which releases no toxic diesel particles whatsoever.