Volkswagen supervisory board criticizes CEO's remark that evoked Nazi slogan

Anger as VW chief executive plays on Nazi slogan at company event

Anger as VW chief executive plays on Nazi slogan at company event

Volkswagen's supervisory board on Friday condemned remarks made by the company's chief executive after he appeared to allude to a Nazi-era slogan when he attempted to describe the carmaker's earnings potential. "In fact, it was a very unfortunate choice of words and if I had unintentionally hurt feelings with it, I am extremely sorry".

The phrase appears to be a play on "Arbeit macht frei" - work makes you free - a notorious Nazi slogan that was inscribed over the entrance to Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

EBIT refers to earnings before interest and taxes and Diess said he wanted to emphasise their importance to the company's bottom line.

VW CEO Herbert Diess speaks during the automaker's annual news conference in Wolfsburg, Germany, on March 12, 2019.

"It was in no way my intention to put my statement in the wrong context - I honestly didn't think it would at the time", he said. The automaker was founded by the German government in 1937 to mass-produce a low-cost auto, and was originally operated by the German Labour Front, a Nazi organization.

Mr Diess added that he and the company were "aware of the particular historical responsibility of Volkswagen in connection with the Third Reich".

Volkswagen, whose factory was repurposed during World War II to build military equipment and vehicles, is today the world's biggest automotive group with brands including Audi, Bugatti, and Porsche.

Analysts at Bernstein said management change at Volkswagen had become a significant risk following the supervisory board's statement. Diess has been CEO of Volkswagen since April past year. In a separate email to Business Insider, Volkswagen called the case "legally and factually flawed, and Volkswagen will contest it vigorously".