Friday, 22 March, 2019

Volkswagen supervisory board condemns CEO's 'EBIT macht frei' remark

Anger as VW chief executive plays on Nazi slogan at company event Volkswagen CEO apologizes for evoking Auschwitz slogan at company meeting
Priscilla Morrison | 17 March, 2019, 03:56

"EBIT" stands for "earnings before income and taxes", but his choice of words echoed the phrase "arbeit macht frei", which translates to "work will set you free".

Volkswagen was founded in 1937, as part of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's vision to enable German families to own their first auto.

Diess said "Ebit macht frei" during an internal Volkswagen event, evoking memories of "Arbeit macht frei", the words that appeared prominently at the entrance of Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz. Founded in 1937 as part of Adolf Hitler's vision for every German family to own a auto, Volkswagen used more than 15,000 slave laborers during the war as it manufactured vehicles for the German army.

The Volkswagen factory was also repurposed during the Nazi era to build military vehicles and equipment.

Responding on LinkedIn, Diess said he had meant to say that more profitable divisions had more freedom to make decisions and hadn't meant to invoke the Nazi slogan. The CEO's comments were first reported by German news outlets.

More news: New Zealanders reach out to Muslims in wake of mass shooting

"Volkswagen has undertaken many activities over the last 30 years that have made the company, myself personally and our employees fully aware of the historical responsibility Volkswagen bears in connection with the Third Reich", Diess wrote.

Analysts at Bernstein said management change at Volkswagen had become a significant risk following the supervisory board's statement.

Asked whether Bernstein analyst Max Warburton was right to suggest that Diess had lost support internally as a result of the remarks, Volkswagen's supervisory board said such an inference was inappropriate.

"The investors did not know that VW was lying to consumers to fool them into buying its "clean diesel" cars and lying to government authorities in order to sell cars in the USA that did not comply with US emission standards", the SEC alleged.

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