In mid-2015, Volkswagen proudly reached its goal of surpassing Toyota as the world’s largest automaker. A few months later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disclosed that Volkswagen had installed software in 11 million cars that deceived emissions-testing mechanisms. By early 2017, VW had settled with American regulators and car owners for $20 billion, with additional lawsuits still looming. Recalling major corporate scandals of the recent past—such as the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and the deceptions practiced by Enron and WorldCom—the difference here was the extent of the conspiracy, the environmental harm done, and the admission of guilt for these actions extracted by the U.S. Department of Justice. All were unprecedented.
In FASTER, HIGHER, FARTHER, the first book on Volkswagen’s shocking fraud, Jack Ewing, the reporter who has meticulously covered the story for The New York Times, offers a riveting and cautionary tale about power and corruption. In this gripping account, he takes readers behind the scenes to expose how this happened, who discovered the deception, and how the company tried to cover up its misdeeds. Populated by a fascinating cast of characters, and unfolding with the pace of a thriller, FASTER, HIGHER, FARTHER describes VW’s rise from “the people’s car” during the Nazi era to one of Germany’s most prestigious and important global brands, touted for being “green.” Ewing paints vivid portraits of Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piëch and chief executive Martin Winterkorn, arguing that the corporate culture they fostered drove employees—working feverishly in pursuit of impossible sales targets—to illegal methods. Unable to build cars that could meet U.S. emissions standards (which are more restrictive than European standards), engineers had to cheat. Volkswagen then compounded the fraud by spending millions marketing “clean diesel.” Their lie was exposed by a handful of West Virginia University researchers operating on a shoestring budget, and the result was a guilty plea to criminal charges in a landmark federal case.
FASTER, HIGHER, FARTHER reveals a story larger than an isolated set of misdeeds, explaining how the succeed-at-all-costs mentality prevalent in modern boardrooms led to one of corporate history’s farthest-reaching cases of fraud—with potentially devastating consequences.