Recently, the EPA was notified by a NGO that they had discovered that VW has been using software in their diesel vehicles to cheat US environmental laws.
VW added code to their software in their diesel autos that detect when the cars are hooked up to an emissions testing unit, and when that takes place, the engine changes mode and all emissions control systems would start, thus ensuring the car would pass inspection. As soon as the testing is complete, the engine returns to full pollution mode.
How much of a difference did it make? The study found that emissions during normal driving were up to 40 times the legal limit. In this day and age when most auto manufacturers are trying to come in well under the legal limit for emissions, VW is polluting at 40x that amount.
So, for every VW diesel, that’s the equivalent of a minimum of 40 cars on the road. I don’t have the data that would compare a Passat diesel to a Camry Hybrid, but I would imagine it would vastly surpass that 40x figure.
VW loved to sell the concept of the new “clean diesel” as an environmentally friendly auto, one that would allow VW drivers to think they were farting wildflowers as they drove down the road, but clearly “clean diesel” is not much different than the absurd concept of “clean coal.” It’s a PR game and utter bull.
Clearly, massive fines are in order, but does a fine really compensate for this level of cheating? This is a crime on a massive scale, involving one of the most successful and recognized corporations on the planet. It’s hard to imagine the arrogance of the VW executives and engineers to think that their crime wouldn’t be discovered. This is a very serious crime and those responsible should be penalized with long jail terms in addition to extensive monetary penalties.
Should VW be banned from the US market?
The amount of people that VW employs directly and indirectly in the US is extensive. Remember that VW includes Porsche and Audi, too, so the economic impact would be staggering. But what about responsibility? They breached the trust of the American people like some sleazy snake oil salesmen and should be treated similarly, so there is a strong argument that they should be banned from the US market for some period of time.
Should all VW diesel owners get fully reimbursed for their purchases?
Absolutely. VW should pony up the funds and fully reimburse all owners along with extra compensation for the inconvenience and emotional injury. These people felt they were doing something positive only to find out that they were polluting at frightening levels. For an environmentally minded person, that’s a serious issue and one that would certainly anger me. Knowing the history of how the German auto manufacturers respond to customers does not indicate they will be generous in any way. Remember the Audi acceleration problems? Their response was pretty much along the lines of “You stoooopid Amereeekans don’t know to drive.” And it’s not like they learned anything from that encounter either, because the customer service has remained remarkably terrible.
Maybe this will finally teach them a lesson, but if they don’t survive the penalty, it will be a big loss to the automotive world, because the Germans do build beautiful machines. It’s just that damn arrogance that makes them so unlovable.