For the past month or so Volkswagen has been in serious bother. An "insider" went to the German press and claimed the whole company was a hotbed of sex, bribery, corruption, hookers and champagne-fuelled orgies on private jets.
It all sounded a bit far-fetched to be honest, the notion that the makers of the Golf diesel, with its sensible seats and big boot, could be a corporate version of the mafia. But blow me down. Heads have begun to roll. Executives have started to resign.
This is extraordinary — Volkswagen is more powerful than half the world's countries. It owns Audi, Seat, Skoda and Bentley and employs 340,000 people. It makes 5m cars and turns over £60 billion every year. And it's run by my old friend Burnt Fish Trousers, who's a model of decency, dignity and good old-fashioned manners.
Yet the essence of the story, so far as I can tell, is that trade union leaders, who in Germany have a great deal of power, have allegedly been flown round the world on company jets and given £20,000 company vouchers that they can use to pay for exotic escort girls and lap dancers. And then, in return, the Red Robboes are supposed to let the company reform its expensive labour policy.
Frankly, I can't see what's wrong with that. If Mrs Thatcher had put Arthur Scargill on a private jet full of naked Vietnamese girls, an awful lot of stone throwing and angst would surely have been avoided. It's possible also that we would still have a car industry if Sir Michael Edwardes had shovelled vast quantities of drugs up the noses of those lunatic trade unionists at British Leyland.
Money, sex and drugs: they're a Dyno-Rod dynamite tripod when it comes to unblocking negotiations that have stalled. I'd suggest teaming them with a spot of bribery and blackmail. Most men will give in on almost all they hold dear if you have photographs of them semi-submerged in a Portuguese lap dancer.
It's corruption like this on which the entire Italian economy is founded, and it's corruption like this that could solve the Iraqi problem at a stroke.
The cost to the American government since the conflict began is put by some observers at £100 billion. And they could have given everyone in Iraq a small car for less than that. Actually, with an order of that size, I suspect discounts might well have been available, so it could have been a large car or even an SUV.
This is bribery, of course, but what's wrong with that? It would have saved 25,000 lives, made everyone over there happy, removed the motive for the London bombings and thus saved Britain £3 billion. Furthermore, it would have provided a much-needed boost for the beleaguered American motor industry. Make cars, not war. That's what I say.
No really. The United Nations and the world of rock'n'roll are consumed at the moment with how corrupt African leaders might be dissuaded from stealing all the aid. Simple: give them all a golden Rolls-Royce and ask them to look the other way when the food parcels arrive.
And so we arrive back with Volkswagen, wondering who has suffered if all the allegations turn out to be correct. If German labour laws are changed, VW makes more money, which is good for shareholders; Europe gets cheaper cars, which is good for everyone; a few union leaders get laid and some hookers get paid. Everyone wins.
There's also talk, strongly denied by VW, of dummy corporations set up to smooth their entry into new markets such as Angola, which apparently have been funded by suppliers who need Volkswagen for their survival. And again, what's wrong with that? Suppliers would stay in business and Angola would get Golfs instead of oxen. If Mercedes or Renault see this as unfair competition — well, instead of wailing and gnashing their teeth maybe they should stop being so sanctimonious and get down to Spearmint Rhino with a pocket full of blank cheques.
There is, however, a drawback to this plan. In the same way that General Motors makes lousy cars because it spends most of its time and effort running the company pension scheme, and McLaren only wins races when it's not busy building road cars, the bigwigs at VW were obviously not paying attention when the new Passat was being developed.
But then I suppose it's hard to think about rear axle configuration when you've got a face full of Brazilian and your bank manager's on the phone asking what you want him to do with this week's gold ingot.
If you thought the last Passat was dull to behold, you really ain't seen nothing yet. This new one is sculptured ditchwater. It looks like it was styled by someone who was either in a big hurry to get the job done or who was having sex at the time. As a result, it is the motoring equivalent of Belgium: something you simply won't notice.
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