A view of the VW scandal from a Japanese outpost?2015/10/11 08:44

Shigeru Shoji is the ex CEO of VW Japan.  Shoji was employed by

VW HQs in 2012 and was subsequently seconded to VW Japan as its

CEO.  By all accounts he was very successful at growing VW’s

business in Japan, tirelessly visiting his distributors across Japan and

exhorting them to sell more.  His work paid off and VW became the

absolute top seller within the Japanese imported car sector.  Success

led to his becoming chairman of the Japan Automobile Importers’

Association in 2014.  But he suddenly quit voluntarily in July 2015. 

Since this was just after he had announced the new VW Passat’s

introduction to the Japanese market (the gasoline engine variety, not

the diesel), speculations were rife -- the link provided is a typical one –

that Shoji was forced out because of differences with VW HQs over

marketing policies and results.

 

Prior to heading VW Japan, Shoji built his career as an employee of

general trading company (a sogo shosha in Japanese parlance) Itochu

Corporation’s automotive business.  This would mean that he spent

his career exporting Japanese cars and car components to markets

where car manufacturers did not wish to tread directly, finding and/or

becoming those cars’ local distributors, on occasion financing local car

sales, and also on occasion setting up car assembling plants.  He

apparently was extremely successful at that, and according to

Japanese website Business Journal eventually made friends with

Ferdinand Piech’s son, who recommended him to VW as a potential

head of VW Japan.  Ferdinand Piech is of course the ex VW

Supervisory Board chairman who lost his position this year in a palace

coup. 

 

It might appear that the speculations surrounding Shoji’s abrupt

departure from VW Japan were off the mark. 

 

In an October 7 article in Japanese economic paper Nikkei’s online

edition, Shoji’s ex boss Uichiro Niwa, who was CEO of Itochu between

  1998 – 2004 wrote that “various information are coming out of the

[German car] company.  If such amounts of information could well out,

it would not be strange that information and rumors regarding the fraud

were widespread within the company.  After all in any company, there

are communications at various levels that circulate among top

management and its workers.  Is it possible that top management was

oblivious to all this?” 

 

Although I would not allege that Niwa is not Internet savvy, I am not too

sure whether he had the ability to trawl through the Internet in German

in search of leaks on the VW scandal.

 

If I am speculating correctly, Japan might have lost an opportunity to

trumpet the strength of, and commitment to its whistleblowing system.


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