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
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 between1998 – 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.