I thought I knew the VW emissions scandal story quite well. But I’ve never seen it so well laid out as in this documentary, Hard NOx, one of a new investigative Netflix series from Alex Gibney about scandal and corruption in the business world.
It is mainly told from a US viewpoint but the story is a global one, from 2015, when the German car manufacturer was discovered to have installed defeat devices to dupe emissions tests, affecting 11m vehicles.
Gibney directs and presents this episode himself, and brings to it an extraordinary thoroughness. He interviews everyone who could and would be interviewed – VW employees, scientists, testers, lawyers, car journalists, etc, and turns up new evidence, more shocking details about the scale of the deceit, the attempts to cover it up, and the unhealthy alliance between governments and car manufacturers that allowed it to happen in the first place.
He also sets Volkswagen in a historical context, going right back to Hitler and his people’s car, through the 60s counterculture of Beetles and Campers, to declining sales, and the intense pressure to sell more, at any cost, which is what a corporate culture permeated by fraud was born of.