A Rationalization: VW emission scandal
The recent news of VW Emission scandal has left the die-hard VW fans in distress and has astounded the entire auto- world. This incidence has not only revealed the irresponsible behavior of the world’s largest automotive group but has also raised some serious concerns about their commitment towards the environment concerns! Let us discuss this most dramatic series of events and the sore scars it has left on the credibility of auto-world!
What happened exactly?
Any vehicle that is sold in the United States is required to meet the stringent emission norms put in place by the EPA. These norms are issued in the interest of public safety and environmental protection. VW tried to bypass this routine procedure of obtaining the clearance from EPA by designing a vehicle that really meets the emission standards. Instead, they engineered a software (known as ‘defeat device’ as stated in the Clean Air Act) which detects when the vehicle is undergoing an emission test. Upon the detection, the software manipulates the performance of the engine in such a way that it reduces the amount of the outgoing pollutants like NOx. Thus, the vehicle clears the test. But thereafter, during the normal operating conditions, the emission performance of the vehicle reduces drastically making it emit as much as 40 times the permissible exhaust limit.
This information came into focus when EPA and CARB (California Air Resources Board) carried out an investigation of several VW models including Audi, in association with some researchers from West Virginia University. Upon demand of further explanations, the manufacturer admitted the use of defeat device.
The list of the affected vehicles is as follows (Diesel versions only):
Jetta (Manufacturing Year 2009 – 2015)
Jetta Sportwagen (Manufacturing Year 2009-2014)
Beetle (Manufacturing Year 2012 – 2015)
Beetle Convertible (Manufacturing Year 2012-2015)
Audi A3 (Manufacturing Year 2010 – 2015)
Golf (Manufacturing Year 2010 – 2015)
Golf Sportwagen (Manufacturing Year 2015)
Passat (Manufacturing Year 2012-2015)
The total number of vehicles with the defeat device sums to an astronomical figure of 11 million.
As an immediate response to this uncovered fraud, company’s CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned. This followed the sacking of many high ranked officials. In addition, VW is liable for a fine by EPA (estimated to be 18 billion USD), many other civil penalties. Besides, there is the filing of several lawsuits already. The experts are still trying to figure how much it will cost to recall all those 11 million vehicles and fix the identified issue.
After any such an unfortunate event, a decline in the sales figure is a natural phenomenon. So, the VW will most likely observe this trend in this case also. The only factor to consider here is the magnitude of this fall and the time for which it will continue.
Why did VW do it?
A close observation of all the facts indicates very clearly that this fraud is certainly a planned activity. Hence, the chances of this event turning out to be a mistake are meager enough to neglect. The underlying facts all point to the increasing sales figure of VW Diesel vehicles in the US in recent years. VW has been trying to achieve this for so many years by promoting ‘clean Diesel’ fuel. Naturally, putting in more R&D efforts to achieve really satisfactory emission results would have delayed the entry of several VW models in the US market making it hard to recover later as the share of Diesel vehicles in that market is merely 3%. The fierce competition forced VW to look for some shortcuts. And, the result is right in front of us- VW Emission Scandal!
Also, it is worth taking a note that nowadays, Electric and Hybrid Vehicles are more appealing to the consumers. Therefore, VW might have thought that investing in Diesel technology is like putting your money on the sinking ship!
Finally, whatever may be the reasons behind the VW Emission Scandal; the highest loss will always be in terms of the loss of consumer faith- something money can’t recover! The other auto manufacturers can take VW Emission Scandal as a learning exercise. They should remember a proverb ‘Better late than never’!