Small Non-Profit Exposes VW Emissions Scandal

When I read that Volkswagen was recalling vehicles for failure to comply with US emissions requirements, I didn’t think much of it. Automakers are recalling vehicles all the time. How was this any different?

But then I looked past the headlines and dug into these articles. And let me tell you… The reality of what happened is breathtaking. Literally.

To catch you up to speed, for years now VW has been marketing their “clean” diesel vehicles as being environmentally responsible and fuel-efficient. They were touting diesel as the future fuel of the American Road.

Go ahead, drive 594 Miles Of Adventure (while emitting 35x the legal limit of nitrous oxide) in every tank! Let’s really max out that pollution!

This commercial from last year is laying the hypocrisy on THICK:

The reality is–sorry narrator–there was plenty of compromise. VW Clean Diesel is very much dirty. And not accidentally dirty. No, no, no. This isn’t an error in design or an honest manufacturing mistake. VW willfully installed software allowing their diesel cars to perform better when being tested in a lab than when actually driving on the road… You know that pesky thing “the road.” That paved asphalt-y surface that cars spend 99.999999% of their life on? Not good, VW. Not good at all.

There is only one way to read this story: VW was cheating the American consumer and the EPA while simultaneously poisoning the air we breathe–all for greater profit.

So thank god the EPA figured this all out, right? Well, hold on a minute. In reality a small non-profit called the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) gets the credit. Two gentleman, one from Germany and one with the last name German, may bring down the largest automaker in the world (which also happens to be headquartered in Germany). Alanis Morisette might have something to say about this…

John German and Peter Mock

The ICCT’s Peter Mock (right in picture above) of Berlin, Germany made the initial observation that the diesel vehicles were performing inconsistently on European roads. The cars performed dramatically better in the lab than in the streets. Knowing that the US has more stringent emissions requirements than the EU, Peter contacted his colleague John German (left in above picture) of Ann Arbor, Michigan and asked him to run similar tests in the US. The results were startling to say the least. The VW cars tested, literally advertised and sold under the moniker “Clean Diesel,” were running very dirty.

Neither Peter or John are sure of how the software works, but they do believe the software must have been deliberately placed into the cars to beat government testing and assure the vehicles a spot on our roads.

In all, the company has been found to have falsified U.S. pollution tests on over a half million diesel engine vehicles by deliberately installing software to make them appear cleaner than they were. Once out of the lab and onto the streets, the cars would emit as much as 40 times the allowable levels of nitrogen oxides. Ouch.

The fallout from this scandal will be immense. VW stock has already lost over $26 billion in value. Their CEO has resigned, though admitted no knowledge of the intricate scheme to defraud just about everyone. And the American consumer has lost a whole heck of a lot of trust in what was one of the more iconic automaker brands.

Will the company survive? Probably. Should it? From where I’m sitting… Probably not.

And that is a sad thing, indeed.