Did you know that the Volkswagen Motor Group – the largest automotive manufacturers in the entire world – developed diesel-engine cars with technology so sophisticated, they were able to manipulate toxic emissions in order to pass Environmental Protection Agency testing? To answer the obvious questions, yes, that is outrageously illegal. And yes, they are about to get hit with major penalties for years of violations.
Since 2008, Volkswagen and Audi have been producing diesel vehicles that possess a built-in software called a ‘defeat device,’ which lets diesel-fuel cars, including the Volkswagen Jetta, Beetle, Golf, and Passat, as well as the Audi A3, know that they are being tested. Once engaged, the software cuts down on smog-causing chemicals emitted, allowing all vehicles to pass their tests…by an environmentally-disastrous amount of cheating.
The defeat device is turned off once these vehicles hit the road, resulting in the production of about 40 times as much pollution as allowed under the Clean Air Act. This corner-cutting does nothing to evoke the feelings VW hoped would be produced for their ‘clean diesel’ push.
How many millions of dollars in potential fines will Volkswagen have to hand over? Forget millions, because we’re talking billions. The fine amount could be up to $37,500 per vehicle. Since about 20% of Volkswagen’s vehicles were created with the ‘Clean Diesel’ moniker, multiply that number by the nearly 500,000 vehicles involved, and the total bill comes to about $18 billion. That does not include the money needed for Volkswagen to actually fix this emissions glitch on every single car involved. In the wake of this diesel scandal, VW CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday, with company shares down 30 percent since being hit with the violations.
For creating such a financial (and environmental) mess, there must be a good reason for VW bending the rules. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. Cars.com Detroit bureau chief Aaron Bragman offers an explanation, which many automotive experts echoed:
The Volkswagens likely perform better with the emissions controls defeated than they do with them on. Otherwise, there would be no reason to have a setting that turns on the controls for tests and turns them off for regular driving.
For over seven years, Volkswagen has been selling the public on a lie, claiming their ‘clean diesel’ vehicles would be much better for the future of the environment, just to make sure drivers would find the car-driving experience matches their past expectations. Wouldn’t car-buyers looking for a more sustainable choice in a vehicle expect that the car would be different? I guess VW isn’t about to let futuristic nonsense such as ‘promoting a better environment’ disrupt that feeling of putting the pedal to the metal!
Thankfully, the decision to crack down hard on health and safety violators will create a stronger awareness in the automotive community to be careful about cutting corners. With any luck, the fines levied against Volkswagen will push other companies to strive towards creating more environmentally-friendly vehicle options that are actually better for the environment.