25 July 2017

Where There's Smoke...

Where there's smoke, there's fire an old saying goes. With corruption sometimes the guilty are exposed. Then there are cases where there is a strong evidence of wrongdoing but proving it is quite another thing. Regarding the latter, it's a situation of smoke being seen but the cause of the fire wasn't proven.

Of course, corruption and dodgy dealing is part and parcel of business. However, when people do get caught, an inbuilt sense of justice is stirred within most of us. Yet the frequency and severity of the offending does vary. Why?

Well, each country has a culture that tends to squeeze its citzens into a certain mould. It influences us more than would we would often like to admit. I was brought up in the very British idea that playing by the rules was more important than winning. As to whether it is still a strong ideology in the UK, I'm not too sure. No doubt it still exists and influences people there. Fair play comes before winning.

The German culture regarding winning - I have come to believe - is win honestly, but if you can't do it that way you must still win. Winning comes before fair play. When I was young, there was a scandal regarding a deal done between an Auckland Regional Authority representative and a German company where personal gain was involved in a less than competitive transaction over buses. I was angry.

Recently VW was trying to beat its competitors with genuine technology but ended up doing so in a devious way. It couldn't win honestly but was determined to win. That was the culture inside a company but reflective of a broader attitude.

Now a claim has been made that the German car brands colluded for decades in an anti-competitive way. They may have set prices, agreed on suppliers, and used other forms of cooperation to gain an unfair advantage.This may have led to prices of cars being higher than they should have been. Another accusation states that in an attempt to stay ahead of foreign rivals, VW, BMW and Mercedes met regularly to discuss technology.

The companies involved deny the allegations or have not replied to them. I do see and irony in that at this very time Daimler is recalling 3 million diesel vehicles in Europe for a free emissions-system alteration. Audi has followed suit, with a similar offer to "improve" emissions behavior. Regardless, whether anything comes of these allegations we will have to wait and see. However, where there's smoke....

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