Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt takes up here new job at VW January 1 (Photo: Daimler)

Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt says that, over the last four years, she has spent a considerable amount of effort creating a proper understanding of compliance among Daimler's workforce. "That's why we have highlighted the term integrity," she said in one of her last interviews as Daimler board member for Integrity and Legal Affairs. Daimler announced this month that Hohmann-Dennhardt, a former supreme court justice who joined the premium car group in 2011, is moving to Volkswagen to take up a similar role there. The move comes as Volkswagen faces a barrage of legal and other actions following its admission that it had used software to make diesel cars look cleaner in emissions tests than they actually are. Following are excerpts from the automotiveIT interview with Hohmann-Dennhardt conducted at the Frankfurt Auto Show last month. The full interview can be read in the automotiveIT international magazine.

How has your role as the board member responsible for integrity and law changed in the past 24 months due to the growing digitization and what does it mean for your day-to-day business?

If you will permit, I have to back up a bit here. When I joined the company in 2011, the campaign against corruption was on the front burner, and that was an early focus of my activities at the company. My role did not just involve compliance as such. You of course have to set up tools, carry out checks and perform risk assessments in this area. But, to a greater extent, I think this means creating a proper understanding of compliance within the company. That is why we have highlighted the term integrity and have entered into a direct dialog with our employees.

Were you able to create the understanding among employees?

Yes, clearly. But first you have to create an awareness of this difficult matter and provide support on dealing with complex situations. Our employees should take responsibility on their own and not delegate decisions upward out of fear, especially in markets where there is a risk of corruption. They must gain the self-assurance to do the right thing on behalf of the company. I consider that to be important. But to get back to your first question: New technologies have in fact been changing my focus recently. In my area, we are increasingly dealing with technical issues.

Automotive data is becoming a bigger issue as cars are connected. Can you explain the difficulties from your point of view?

People are increasingly asking the question: Who owns the car’s data? The paramount aspect is, who is entitled to use the information in what situation and who has access to the data, and less the question of ownership. You ultimately have to categorize data groups. There are naturally data over which the customer has exclusive authority, for which he is responsible and that he must protect himself. But the circumstances are more complex than is often portrayed in the media. Developments and safety measures that must be protected are found in the vehicle’s “technical data.” The situation is different for data that is used for service-shop repairs. In this case, the customer must have access to the information. The same applies to service data.

How do you create trust in the customer? How can he be sure that you are not doing business with his data and that you are complying with the data groups?

Our entrepreneurial goal, the entrepreneurial object, is entirely different. We don’t want to explicitly deal in data. The car is our business, not data. Our trademark is security. That naturally includes data protection and data security. Especially in view of autonomous and networked driving. We are intensively involved with these important issues and at this point it is essential to build trust. Our goal is to guarantee the unassailability of our systems and data from the standpoint of our customer. That is our job. And not dealing in data.

-Interview by Arjen Bongard, Hilmar Dunker

To read the full interview, please subscribe to the automotiveIT international magazine at www.automotiveIT.com/subscribe.