Two years have passed since Volkswagen publicly admitted lying about the emissions from its "clean diesel" vehicles. As hard as VW has tried to move on, the stench of its bad acts lingers.
Why is that? What is it about the tidy resolution of this scandal that seems so unsatisfying?
It boils down to one word: truth. We haven't heard it.
Despite the vast sums VW has expended in buybacks, fines, dealer compensation and settlements with customers, there is no coherent public account of where this scandal started, who ordered whom to do what, how high and wide the deception spread and what VW has done structurally to root out deceptive people and practices.
Until such an account is rendered (it took General Motors less than five months in the ignition case), it's hard to know whether VW is the kind of company that can learn from its failures and be trusted not to lapse again. And it's hard for others in the industry to learn lessons from the scandal.
This is not to say VW has avoided its responsibilities — just that its efforts to make things right seem more about self-preservation than true penitence.
Yes, it has embraced a costly electrification strategy, but so have other automakers faced with stricter emissions standards.
Yes, it commissioned an outside investigation, but it won't release the findings.
Yes, it pleaded guilty to a felony in the U.S., and two employees face extended time behind bars. But no one believes Oliver Schmidt or James Liang concocted this scheme on their own.
Whoever gave the order walks free and, for all we know, still works at VW.
VW has made amends with regulators, dealers and consumers but not yet with the industry that it shamed. Its willful criminal acts destroyed the faith consumers and dealers must have in manufacturers to build and market safe, compliant products.
And until VW comes clean with the truth, that faith will remain in question.