Thought for the Day – Corporate trust?

Builders:

In the 1960’s any American who expressed any distrust of the government, even a part of it like J. Edgar Hoover, was instantly labeled a subversive or communist, and publicly marginalized. Today, the pendulum has come full swing, and a significant and vocal number of people consider anyone with any trust in any act of civil government to be a lackey and dupe. It is ironic that that these extremists often  ignore the fact they went to public schools, drive on federal highways, fly on FAA regulated planes, eat food made to FDA standards, work 40 hour weeks, enjoy national parks and appreciate things like the internet, the P-51, the Jeep and the .30-06, (which all have their origins in the US civil government). The government isn’t perfect nor efficient, but these people still call 9-1-1 when they have a heart attack because they want to live to complain another day.

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Moving away from civil affairs, I will say that I am astounded how much trust people have in the giant corporations that have tentacles into most facets of our lives.  While I have reluctantly grown used to being treated to unsolicited dissertations on the absolute evils of civil government by people who don’t know how many articles there are in the constitution, very few people ever express to me the same lack of trust of international corporations, as if being in the private sector and devoted solely to making profits insured fully ethical behavior. An odd perspective where lobbing, bribing and purchasing politicians is perfectly acceptable, but actually being a politician of any kind or quality is evil.

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This week offers a great example of the public trust of international corporations, particularly of ‘brands’ they have been taught to ‘love’ through very effective marketing. So Volkswagen finally admits to a giant scheme to defraud US laws, extending to 11 million vehicles.  While VW fan’s were stunned to learn they had been lied to by the ‘nice people’ who make colorful Beetles, I was not. I don’t have blind faith in government, but I do have an absolute faith that management of international corporations will take every opportunity to make profits, even if this means subverting the laws that they couldn’t block from being written in the first place.

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To give some perspective, there are auto mechanics who have done actual jail time for disabling the emissions control equipment on as few as 10 cars. If the CEO of VW were to spend 5 minutes behind bars for each of the 11 million cars, he would not live long enough to see daylight again. ( Assuming we learned how to send white collar criminals to jail).

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To VW fans with surprised looks on their faces, or investors who saw their stock value tank 30%  in 48 hours, I say get real, wake up, and have another coffee. We are talking about a company that was founded at the request of Adolph Hitler and used slave labor from concentration camps in WWII. To expect the ethics of Jesus from a corporation with such origins is slightly naïve to say the least.  A VW fan and perpetual owner I know, who has treated me to countless lectures on the alleged superiority of ‘German engineering’, told be he could hardly believe his TDI was going to have a recall because it produced up to 40 times the legal level of emissions. On the phone I asked him “Let me get this right: You can’t conceive of guys from the Fatherland putting toxic gasses in the air other people were going to breathe and then lying about it?” It was a new idea to him, he was focused on not trusting the evil National Park Service.

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Your Aviation Connection:

The Homebuilt aircraft in your shop will be trustworthy because you know the ‘corporation’ that is putting it together, and ‘they’ are driven by learning and doing a good job, not making a ‘profit’ by doing the job as cheaply as possible and subverting every regulation ‘they’ can get away with.

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In the last 26 years I have seen countless examples of the management of corporations, both big and small, both certified and experimental, lying about the airworthiness of their products, just to make a profit. Go back and look at Cessna still claiming that the C-162 Skycatcher was an ideal beginners plane even after both of the first two examples were lost in unrecoverable spins, in spite of being flown by professional test pilots. Would you like some immunity? Be a homebuilder, build your own skills, work with proven designs, and work with company owners who own, use and speak frankly about the designs and components you will use.

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April 20th 1939 was Adolph Hitler’s 50th birthday, and he was presented one of the first VW’s ever made in acknowledgement of his full support of the enterprise. The business was a joint venture between Ferdinand Porsche and Albert Speer. They were not ‘just Germans’, they were both Nazi party members, SS officers, convicted war criminals, and personal friends of Hitler’s. Most Americans have never read Speer’s 900 page memoir “Inside the Third Reich” to understand that even in war, German companies were private enterprises that competed for contracts and made money. Speer was eventually head of all war production in Germany. Convicted of using slave labor, he served his full 20 year sentence, and was still in Spandau prison, long after shiny new VW bugs were popular cars in the US. It was a triumph of marketing to people who didn’t read books.

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Above, Slave labor from a German concentration camp. VW, by their own admission, used 15,000 slaves, (80% of their workforce) between 1942 and ’45. These were only supplied by the Nazi’s at the specific request of the company ownership. In America we are immensely proud of the factual image of “Rosie the Riveter.” Look at the faces in the above photo to see the difference in two worlds. Our mothers and grandmothers were paid to go to war plants with bandanas holding their hair back. Question: How angry would you be if your mother or grandmother went to the VW plant with a shaved head and a 9mm Gestapo Luger pressed to her scalp? Answer: Odds are you wouldn’t have ever been born to care, as the fatality rate, even among highly skilled slave laborers was more than 50%, for women it was much higher.

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The parody add run by National Lampoon magazine (the same people who brought you the movie Animal House) in the 1970s. VW sued the magazine for millions of dollars. They were not concerned about the joke or it’s taste, or the Kopechne family heartache. They were only concerned about the VW trademark being associated with something negative for their brand. To their perspective, a valid concern considering how much effort they had spent to go from Hitler’s car to the choice of ‘happy people’ everywhere.

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Last year I had a guy driving a VW give me a giant lecture about the fact 100% of the cars and trucks I own were built by GM. He was spitting mad, because GM had been bailed out by the US government after the financial crisis, and he told me I was “Immoral” for continuing to drive GM products. I told him I was not a fan of bail outs for either banks nor car makers, but it seemed like a smaller crime than using slaves to further the goals of Adolph Hitler, but if he felt the opposite, I was glad to know it.

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Full disclosure to those who want to send hate mail – 125 years ago 50% of my DNA was all in Germany. My maternal great grandparents were all Germans. I have been to Germany, I have worked for a German corporation, I have read the works of most German political writers from Marx to Todenhöfer. I have a handful of friends who are Germans, and I have spent far more time listening to them than speaking to them. I have never owned an imported car or truck, but I have no real objection to others who feel the need to. Please read the short note: What the 4th of July means to me. before making a decision about what my position on Germans is. I honestly think the simple fact that Americans are less respectful and obedient of authority may have been the only thing that spared us from following some of the worst leaders of our own nation. I don’t think we are superior, just raised differently. -Besides, I just write these stories to make sure I have a really short Christmas card list.

Please note that I never post comments from people that don’t include their actual names. If you have a perspective to share, have the conviction do so with your name.

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Above, a 2005 photo. With me in the photo is an old friend, Mood Juma. Mood and I got our A&P licenses together from Embry-Riddle 25 years ago. On that day he drove up in front of my Edgewater hangar in his 1967 Beetle and jokingly yelled out the window “I hear you don’t like German cars, and you don’t like people from the Middle East”  When we drove it to lunch we had a good laugh all the way.

-ww.

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About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

14 Responses to Thought for the Day – Corporate trust?

  1. Terry Hand says:

    “Let me get this right: You can’t conceive of guys from the Fatherland putting toxic gasses in the air other people were going to breathe and then lying about it?”

    William,
    Your ability to find the irony in life is truly impressive! Keep up the writing – about flying, Corvair engines, and life in general. We all learn from it.

  2. Haha. Well, not exactly a laughing matter. Not the first rodeo for VW, they lied in the 70’s about the same thing, albeit on smaller scale. One thing to consider about corporations and why capitalism gets a bad rap: It is LAW that corporations must, priority 1, do everything in their power to provide shareholders with profit. No wonder they are &$%^#ed! If the law was changed to providing customers/consumers with quality ethically created products, then providing profit if possible, things would be way different. 7 Articles; 10 amendments make up the BoR. We need those Lampooners in Congress. Personally, I’ll buy anything that serves my needs no matter who made it, but usually used. Real nice Corvair ramp side (also a VW bus with a 350 mounted behind the driver’s seat way out here in the boonies @ 81423 today. Keep on bein’ William.

  3. Lou Casella says:

    Did I read something somewhere about religion and politics.

    • Lou,
      You are correct, we have a sign about that at Corvair Colleges. I have treated the website as a different context, but I am listening if builders think otherwise. I don’t really think of discussions that relate fair commentary on Fascism as political, I think of it as historic, because to be political, someone would have to be advocating for it’s return and use. None of the things I write fit in the description of religion. It is incidental that Thích Quảng Đức was a Buddhist, the same act was done by Quakers in the US. Most people agree that ethics are universal, and a potential common ground for people of very different faiths. For people who just like the technical stuff, we have ‘thought for the day’ as a different category, anyone can ignore it if they wish. -ww.

  4. Pete Jacobsen says:

    The allies could have left the vw factory in ruins but the British resurrected it to put the germans back to work in the reconstruction years. So maybe you should adjust your tone. You might as well as blame Rudolf Diesel for air pollution too.

    1945–1948: British Army intervention, unclear future

    The company owes its post-war existence largely to one man, British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst, REME. In April 1945, KdF-Stadt, and its heavily bombed factory were captured by the Americans, and subsequently handed over to the British, within whose occupation zone the town and factory fell. The factories were placed under the control of Oldham-born Hirst. At first, the plan was to use it for military vehicle maintenance, and possibly dismantle and ship it to Britain. Since it had been used for military production, and had been in Hirst’s words, a “political animal” rather than a commercial enterprise—technically making it liable for destruction under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement—the equipment could be salvaged as war reparations. (Allied dismantling policy changed in late 1946 to mid-1947, though heavy industry continued to be dismantled until 1951.) Hirst painted one of the factory’s cars green and demonstrated it to British Army headquarters. Short of light transport, in September 1945 the British Army was persuaded to place a vital order for 20,000. The first few hundred cars went to personnel from the occupying forces, and to the German Post Office.

    Some British Service personnel were allowed to take their Beetles back to the United Kingdom when they were demobilised, and one of the very first Beetles brought back in that way (UK registration number JLT 420) is still owned by Peter Colborne-Baber, the son of the original proprietor of the UK’s first official Volkswagen Importer, Colborne Garages of Ripley, Surrey.[14]

    The post-war Industrial plans for Germany set out rules that governed which industries Germany was allowed to retain. These rules set German car production at a maximum of 10% of 1936 car production.[15] By 1946, the factory produced 1,000 cars a month—a remarkable feat considering it was still in disrepair. Owing to roof and window damage, production had to stop when it rained, and the company had to barter new vehicles for steel for production.

    • Pete,
      I understand that you and countless other Americans really like VWs. There is nothing wrong with the metal parts, or even liking them or driving them, my only point is that the company and the vehicles have their origins with some very unsavory humans, and we should remember this is in context. I am not holding the British accountable for things done by VW in WWII, and Rudolph Diesel has been dead for 100 years, so it seems more realistic to just hold the VW management accountable for going to great lengths to evade getting caught for breaking US laws. The point of the whole story is to be skeptical of trusting large corporations.

  5. Bob Helt says:

    I honestly think the simple fact that Americans are less respectful and obedient of authority may have been the only thing that spared us from following some of the worst leaders of our own nation. I don’t think we are superior, just raised differently. -Besides, I just write these stories to make sure I have a really short Christmas card list.

    William, Best thing that I have read all week. Thanks for the laugh.
    Bob Helt

  6. baschmidt says:

    I like your posts.

  7. Kevin Purtee says:

    Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.

    • Kevin,

      Isn’t it great that love is a durable metal alloy that Subaru evidently has a global patent on? Why didn’t other companies think about utilizing it’s amazing material qualities? I hear the cotter pin in the Jesus nut on the rotor head of CH-53’s is also made of love. -ww.

  8. Vern Lehman says:

    I am 100% DNA German/Swiss. I drive a 1965 110Hp Corvair Monza, 1985 Dodge truck, and a 1956 Ford Victoria 2dr ht. I am also an ASE certificated mechanic and just yesterday recommended to a family friend NOT to buy the Mercedes she was looking at. Why? Because you are totally correct William.. the bunk about German engineering being “better” is a big pile of crap. My Grandfather left Dresden in 1910 to immigrate to the United States and it was he who told me (in German) that he did so because his father convinced him there was many a dark day coming to the Nation. And again I agree with you, Corporation is the true evil behind what we witness today. Anyone that has had to replace the heater core in a Jetta or Passat as I have because of galvanic corrosion DUE TO the “special” coolant knows full well what a mess the “superior engineering” ends up being. I’ve done this job twice for two different customers, and turned away many more. Too much labor and the damage is not limited only to the heater core. Note to any who own these machines..do your pocketbook a big favor if it not too late already; and replace the coolant with Evans Coolant… an AMERICAN business, and formulated by an AMERICAN, it is a product that works! Your water pump will appreciate it too. 120 dollars at the most for 2 US gallons of the new lifetime coolant and the effort to install it correctly is cheap compared to the 1600 dollars you will pay someone like me to replace a heater core.
    But if you’d rather believe in the German dealerships “party line”, then as the old TV commercial goes..”you can pay me now or pay me later!” No Mercedes, Audi, BMW, or VW’s in any of my garages at home. LISSENUP! The dealership mechanics know the authorized orange coolant accelerates the galvanic corrosion in these cars. This is why using any other than the authorized coolant will violate your warranty with them! These events dealing with the TDI fuel injection profile liability are not the only issues within. William is correct..the root cause begins and ends at Corporate morality issues. Very much the same issues are present in aviation.
    Vernon Lehman, Corvair conversion manual #529

    • Anthony,
      Thanks for the link, it is a bit of general information. Corvair ground based fans like the author, often have their own ‘take’ on the history of the vehicle, and read it that way. Doesn’t make it bad, it is just a perspective. An example in the article is the position that the car wasn’t successful in it’s appeal to Americans. For a different look catch this data:
      https://www.corvair.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=8:production-numbers-us&Itemid=215
      The Corvair production by year and model, it tells a very different story. Note that the car sold 25,000 units in 1960, and over twelve times as many the next year, and sustained this the following year. Hard to play that as not catching on with people. Ford mustangs, only did a 2.5 times increase from the first year to the second, and the Corvair vs Mustang numbers in 1965 were 250K vs 400K, this in spite of the Corvair being under Naders direct attack. Keep these angles in mind when reading any land based guy’s ‘take’ on the Corvair history. -ww.

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