The Great Volkswagen Scandal
The last decade has seen several outlandish auto maker scandals with Toyota’s run away acceleration, GM’s ignition cylinder failure and GM’s and Chrysler’s “too big to fail” bailouts, but none of these hold a candle to the brazen actions of Volkswagen’s cheating on diesel emission testing.
It can be argued that neither GM nor Toyota knew that their throttles, carpet mountings or ignition switches were bad from the design stage and proceeded to install then in thousands of cars anyway. Their downfall was in how they reacted once a problem was uncovered. Volkswagen, however, intentionally defrauded hundreds of thousands of car buyers and several governments by hiding a known problem under software magic.
VW wanted to take a large share of the American diesel powered car market. To do this they needed to market a diesel engine acceptable to the American driver. This meant an engine that produced plenty of power and great fuel economy. The Turbo Diesel Injected (TDI) Engine was introduced to do this and labeled “The Clean Diesel” in a campaign to sell it to the American market.
The problem was that the TDI engine would only produce acceptable performance without some of the emission controls working. However, the engine could not meet the U.S. emission standards without those systems operating.
VW’s answer? They developed software for the onboard computer system that would disable the emission system when driving and only turn it on during testing. This made it possible for VW to sneak the engine past EPA testing and the annual emissions tests in many states. The car was designed to cheat! At best the car only met the Clean Air Standards that every other maker must meet once a year, for a few minutes, in a shop test bay.
I believe that the repercussions for VW will be staggering. In what may be the biggest case of consumer fraud in history VW knowingly sold a product that did not comply with the law, took active steps to hide that fact from the design stage forward and marketed it as being exceptionally good at the very thing it miserably failed.
Now that the fraud has become public VW has stopped sales of the effected cars, both as new cars and through their used car lots. The corporation has taken a tremendous hit in stock value, but more important, the individuals who purchase these cars now have a car with very questionable resale value. Their dealer network, who were unaware of the corporate hanky panky, are stuck with cars they can’t sell and an image of corruption that they did not create. Additionally, any reasonable motorist considering buying a new car would have to think twice before buying any VW product, even those not under scrutiny.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. The Justice Department is involved, Congress and the EPA want to investigate, Class Actions suits have been filed and VW executives have resigned. In my opinion this should be treated just like any other consumer fraud case. VW should have to refund all monies to all buyers of this bogus product. I believe they should be required to buy back every vehicle that hosts the sneaky software and destroy them. Additionally their TDI engines should be decertified for operation in America and states should refuse to register them when renewal time comes.
Toyota and GM were hit with hefty fines for the cover up of their problems, and justifiably so. How much more serious is the intentional fraud perpetrated by Volkswagen?