Monday, September 21, 2015

Did Volkswagen Make Fools of Us All?

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI. Image courtesy of Volkswagen.
Just the other day, I posted on here a list of reasons to buy a diesel-powered car. Most people in the United States think of trucks when you talk about diesel, but I've repeatedly written about the many advantages of diesel cars, plus recommended them to friends and associates. Now, with the shocking new allegations against Volkswagen, I can't help but feel that the company made fools out of a lot of us.

While it's a fact that VW created a means to dupe the EPA's emissions tests, that doesn't mean that all diesel-powered cars in the United States are similarly gaming the system. Still, a big chunk of the non-truck diesel vehicles in this country come from VW (that includes Audi). It's pretty apparent that we all played into the German automaker's game, and I don't blame people for being upset.

The provisions that Volkswagen used to get around emissions regulations also mean that the cars in question put out 10 to 40 times of pollutants that have been linked to all kinds of respiratory problems, such as asthma attacks. Americans in general should be furious about this, because all of our health was put at risk to pad VW's pockets. That's not only unethical, but it's likely criminal, which is why the Department of Justice just opened up a criminal investigation into the issue.

Keep in mind that the people who are driving the Volkswagen vehicles in question are now going to be in a sticky position. The value of those models will likely drop significantly. They likely will be recalled, but the remedy to the problem could take many forms. It might involve a simple software update or other modifications, but that could significantly impact horsepower and torque output, potentially making the cars much more sluggish, as well as diminishing fuel economy, increasing the cost of ownership. Considering that people bought the cars on the premise that they would perform as advertised, and that's now likely to change, owners could have cause to band together and take legal action. Dealerships could also take damage in the fray, which would affect countless jobs.

If you think the potential for the EPA to fine VW $18 billion is unreasonable, consider everything above and then reassess that conclusion. This was not a systemic failure, like the GM ignition switch recall, but instead a flagrant attempt to pull the wool over the US government and its citizens' eyes. If proven true, such actions need to be punished, and the restitution could leave Volkswagen seriously crippled. This comes after several years of lagging sales in the United States, leaving me to wonder if the company isn't going to face a downward spiral in this market, at least for the short term.

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