Volkswagen decided to throw away the rulebook when it installed special software in some of its diesel-engined Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche vehicles so the autos could cheat Environmental Protection Agency emissions tests.
The software, hidden in the vehicles’ electronic control modules, could sense when testing was occurring and then alter vehicle performance, allowing the autos to appear as though they were in compliance with emission standards when, in fact, they wompliance with emission standards when, in fact, they were far from it.
Evidence uncovered by EPA investigators showed the company gamed the tests because it knew that one of its standard diesel engines could not even come close to meeting stringent EPA standards.
Volkswagen also falsely stated that its so-called clean diesels, when compared to standard engines, cut 90 percent of nitrous oxide emissions when, in fact, the engines’ defeat devices masked a whopping 4,000 percent more nitrous oxide emissions than permissible under federal and California standards.
Simply put, Volkswagen audaciously cheated not just the EPA and its customers, but America’s long-running quest for clean air.
The EPA’s intensive probe concluded that a half-million VW vehicles sold in the U.S. from 2009 to 2015 were noncompliant with U.S. emission standards.
In total, the EPA identified some 11 million Volkswagen vehicles around the world that were embedded with the emissions-cheating software.
Whether they are avid environmentalists or not, car buyers deserve to be told the truth about any product and the green claims made about it.
When they are misled, as were purchasers of VW’s diesel-powered Passat, Jetta, Golf, Beetle and higher-end Porsche and Audi diesels, they have a right to boycott.
In fact, one can hardly blame them if they have become dubious of all the diesels in America’s showrooms. One bad apple rots the barrel, as the adage goes.
By acting in unison, consumers can bring the pressure of the marketplace to bear on bad-acting firms like Volkswagen, whose scandal led to the resignations of VW executives, a two-thirds drop in its stock price, and a potential $7.3 billion in retrofit costs and government fines worldwide.
Higher estimates put the cost to VW at $34 billion. Naturally, a national calamity in Germany, a country proud of its reputation in engineering, ensued.
Adding to VW’s woes was the decision of the Federal Trade Commission to bring legal action against the company on behalf of a half million U.S. vehicle owners, thus joining the previous $20 billion lawsuit brought by the U.S. Justice Department, which was acting on behalf of the EPA.
VW did recently agree to pay slightly more than $1 billion to some 550,000 purchasers of the affected cars.
But Volkswagen dealers across the United States have sought financial damages from the company as well. Institutional investors have also filed suit against the firm in a court in the Netherlands.
Magnifying the company’s problem was a decision by a VW information technology officer to delete corporate files that were subject to a preservation order from the EPA’s lawsuit.
Moreover, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco set a deadline for VW to come up with a plan to correct the emissions problems with 600,000 of the firm’s vehicles sold in the United States. So far, VW has been using its sizable legal team to stall for time.
Across the board, Volkswagen failed to adhere to the age-old principles of corporate due diligence with respect to customers, investors, dealers and employees.
In not doing so, VW has tarnished its reputation, and many potential buyers, justified or not, will cast an untrusting eye at all diesels until the scandal subsides.
Wayne Madsen is a progressive commentator whose articles have appeared in leading newspapers throughout the U.S. and Europe. Readers may write him at 415 Choo Choo Lane, Valrico, FL 33594.