Diess said "EBIT macht frei", which is similar to "arbeit macht frei", a slogan that literally means "work sets you free," and that was engraved on the gates of Nazi concentration camps. EBIT is a finance acronym for "earnings before interest and taxes", and Diess says he was referring to the freedom the Volkswagen Group would have from positive sales growth.
The incident is more pronounced due to Volkswagen's Nazi origins. VW's predecessor, the KdF-Wagen, was created by the Nazi government under the direction of Adolf Hitler. Volkswagen used Jewish and non-Jewish slave labor during WWII to produce wartime variants of the Beetle, including the Kübelwagen. Last year, the company was heavily criticized for tests that involved monkeys breathing in exhaust gas in special chambers, which carried unfortunate parallels to Nazi atrocities.
Nearly all of 2019 has been a long string of headlines for Volkswagen, which is heavily gearing up for its switch to electric vehicles, one of the biggest corporate changes in the company's history. Just this week, VW declared it would build 22 million electric vehicles in the next decade, announced I.D. Hatchback preorders, announced 7,000 job cuts, and the public was again reminded of Dieselgate.
We will update this space if we hear more.