The way American lawyers go at a corporate negligence case is a wonder to behold. A wolf-pack cornering a wounded prey is not a strong enough image.
And in some cases this is good. In the manner of a John Grisham thriller (only a good lawyer can fix anything) American attorneys have moved the world on. Only American lawyers seem to have managed to corner FIFA into admitting that perhaps all was not well with an organisation most of Europe thinks is corrupt but no-one in Europe has been able to lay a glove on. That is excellent.
But there seems, from my distant view across the pond, to be no difference in their approach to such an adversary and a company such as VW. Now I love VW. I have owned five in my life and have also had two Audi A3s, which are just VWs in better clothes.
This crisis over emissions-test fixing (not qualitatively different from painting the walls before the Queen visits or preparing a better lesson for Ofsted) is a slur on a company with an otherwise excellent reputation. My mind understands why all such cases should be treated the same; my heart wants to allow the investigation to be done gently because reputation counts for something and when the chief of VW says this was done by a couple of rogue engineers I tend to believe him. Because of reputation.
To put it another way. I am almost always punctual. When I am not I find people tend to ask if everything is OK rather than telling me off. In this environment I find it easier to tell the truth if I have erred. I am usually forgiven. And it makes me determined to keep my reputation for the future.
Hard questions can, I put it to you, be phrased in a gentle manner without losing their power.