In a recent post called Government Responsibility in VW Scandal, I suggested that there was more to the story about VW being caught “cheating” on the diesel emissions test and that there really wasn’t a “scandal”. Several recent news reports have backed up my thoughts that this was a wider issue neglected by the Governments across the globe for various reasons.
The first was that far more manufacturers are now being investigated including Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Mercedes. Clearly all the German manufacturers will come under scrutiny at some point!
The second report was far more interesting and came from a recording of the World Business Report from the BBC last week (on the 8th October). The programme interviewed Ralph Nader, the safety campaigner who has done a lot to lobby the industry and the US Government to make cars safer. He commented on the issue of autonomy taking away functions from the driver meaning that the driver gradually relinquishes control of the car – which in his view is a concern.
He then went on to talk about VW. Firstly he said that it was a pre-meditated act to design the software to counter the test and that was therefore a criminal action, later he then said that he expected no trial because VW had already admitted guilt and even though it was a criminal action, no penalty could be applied due to the nature of the issue. It was difficult to quantify and then he confirmed what I suspected.
He could not believe how long the issue went without detection because “it has always been well known that the laboratory testing grossly under-estimated the air pollution of the vehicles”. By the phrase “well known” I take it to be the industry, Governments and possibly sections of the media. He then went on to say that the “regulator was prodded by the media” to take action, which clearly snowballed quickly.
He summed up the situation again by saying there was “always a flaw in the testing by the US Government under private/corporate control and that they have known for 20-30 years that the tests were unrealistic”.
He also made a comment about any recall suggesting that VW should offer $500 to each owner to get them to take their car in to be fixed. In other reports I have read that discussed the structure of the recall, it was hard to determine what VW (and any other manufacturer) could do. Changes to the software control system could mean that the vehicle is so restricted it doesn’t perform very well or they could put in limiters to help. Just removing the offending software routine will do nothing as the vehicle on the road will not be in the conditions required to trigger its usage!
Then there are the reports by Government insiders in Europe that suggest that new emissions targets were delayed because other Governments applied pressure to save jobs in their own countries. I am always amazed when I see politicians attacking someone at a Senate Hearing for not knowing what is happening 10 layers below them in the structure, yet they themselves often have no idea what their own direct reports are doing!
The manufacturers need to keep a recording of Ralph Nader on the BBC – and play it back when they have to appear before a Hearing or Commission. Governments are definitely complicit in this issue.