Volkswagen's Eight-Decade Road to Disaster

During the Second World War, the company was almost bombed out of existence, but today its 600,000 employees make roughly one out of every nine vehicles in the world.

The Long Rise and Rapid Fall of Volkswagen

No one knows how far the fallout of Volkswagen’s diesel scandal may spread. Not the regulators. Not the class-action attorneys. Not the ranks of executives in Wolfsburg, Germany, frantically shifting into damage control mode.

It's an unwelcome testament to Volkswagen's success. Since almost being bombed out of existence in the Second World War, the company has grown remarkably. Today, its 600,000 employees make roughly one out of every nine vehicles in the world. The diesel engine, which Volkswagen introduced in the 1970s, has been a big part of that trajectory. Acquisitions have been critical, too, as the company has nimbly snapped up disparate brands and used massive scale to share suppliers, components, and employees.

Now, though, as Volkswagen's diesel scandal spreads like fire on a fuel spill, all of that sharing could be more of a liability than an asset. 

 

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