But the brazenness of VW's deliberate, premeditated and long-term cheating upset others, too. Ordinary Germans who have viewed VW as a national symbol of post-war rebirth. Clean-diesel proponents. All the other people who realize the air they breathe is a tiny bit less healthy because VW rigged its diesels to spew more toxins.
The anger is easy to understand. VW cheated everybody.
So note 2015's $18 billion swing in terms of how the financial pain affects VW senior management, team play and competitive actions.
VW's ambition to be the top global automaker? Not while VW's top managers and board members are this distracted. It's hard to keep your mind on offense when your lawyer is telling you how to stay out of jail.
Even on days when VW brass aren't coping with regulatory and criminal investigators in various countries raiding offices and seizing documents, they are dealing with internal and external strife.
Who should pay for the VW cheating losses? VW management is spreading the pain wherever it can, but it's a hard sell. Losses because of a bad economy or a bad product are understandable as a team loss. Losses because of cheating, not so much. Team members say: "Wait, I didn't cheat. Why do I have to pay for cheating?"
So VW workers are upset about a one-third reduction in the latest round of bonuses, but even more unhappy about a 30 percent cut in bonuses for management board members because the labor cuts are permanent while executive bonuses could be restored retroactively if VW stock prices rebound later.
Suppliers are angry VW has demanded they cut prices by $3 billion.
VW dealers have their own losses tied to VW cheating, so they are not inclined to pitch into the pot to help the automaker out of a jam of its own making.
Even VW shareholders are restive, with the Porsche-Piech family and Lower Saxony reportedly at odds.
Regulators in the U.S. and globally certainly aren't about to cut Volkswagen any slack. Mounting safety recalls and fuel economy and emissions infractions by other automakers already have strained their resources and patience, but VW deliberately defied regulators to catch them. VW's pending U.S. regulatory settlement will be expensive.
Whether all this comes to a head at VW's annual meeting in June is unclear. But Volkswagen is certainly unusually vulnerable to competitors.
VW will withstand the assault. It has economies of scale and global balance most of its competitors lack.
But instead of being on offense as it has been more for years, Volkswagen is going to have to play defense as it collects itself and rallies. That's a big penalty to pay for cheating, but VW has only itself to blame.