Bart has been encouraging me to write my own take on VW’s diesel scandal, but that’s been proving hard since his take on the issue pretty much was all that I could have been hoping to say. So instead of writing a long article, I figured I’d ask you all what you think, and then share a few thoughts I have on the subject matter.
1. VW is guilty…
It is important to admit as much before we go digging further. Yes, other carmakers could be doing the same and yes, the fuel consumption/emissions testing regime is not without fault. But at the end of the day the fact remains that VW did, knowingly, install software to cheat on an emissions test meant to prevent pollution which causes serious health issues.
2. …but what should be its sentence?
There are a lot of numbers bandied about – from the $18bn mentioned as a (maximum) fee in the US, through 11M affected cars, all the way to 20,000 or more job losses. Some even speculate VW would have to sell off family silver (Porsche?) to stay afloat. But at the end of the day it’s impossible to say how much it should pay in penalties until we consider other carmakers.
3. Was VW the only one to cheat?
No. This is not a proven fact, but merely an acknowledgement that in this cutthroat industry whatever pushed VW to install the software was bound to have pushed other brands to attempt similar trickery. VW is the focus because it got caught. But just as with the Snowden NSA revelations – just because one country has the spotlight shone on it does not mean other countries are not doing the same!
4. What next for the diesel?
Diesel engines face an uphill struggle in the future, but only partly because of engineering challenges (high NOx and particle emissions despite lower fuel consumptions). Really, the main opposition will come from politicians who love a convenient scapegoat (especially, if like in the US, they get to bash foreign exports), and will further the rise of the overhyped hybrids which have so far retained their undeserved squeaky-clean public image. And customers? The fact is that, unlike the sanctimonious hybrid drivers, those who choose diesel cars do so for reasons that have most to do with low fuel consumption and easy drivability that comes with high torque, and will most likely not be deterred greatly.