‘Green’ Cars Meltdown As VW Emissions Scandal Rocks Car Industry

volkswagon failThe European car industry was shaken on Monday as Volkswagen’s share price fell almost 20 per cent over its admission that it cheated on US emissions tests, triggering calls for a broader inquiry into the sector. More than €13bn was wiped off VW’s market capitalisation, spurring a wider fall in carmakers’ shares, after Martin Winterkorn, the group’s chief executive, apologised and ordered an external investigation into the affair. he news prompted a fall in carmakers’ shares with Daimler, BMW, Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroën each being sold off amid investor concerns over the potential scale of the cost to VW and the broader industry. VW faces billions of dollars in fines and warranty costs, possible criminal charges for executives and class-action lawsuits from US drivers. –Andy Sharman and Jeevan Vasagar, Financial Times, 22 September 2015

The federal government paid out as much as $51 million in green car subsidies for Volkswagen diesel vehicles based on falsified pollution test results, according to a Times analysis of the federal incentives. Such green car incentives have also gone to buyers of hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars. But the EPA does not track aggregate figures for incentives paid out to buyers of specific models or brands. –Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times, 22 September 2015

Carmakers bombard consumers with marketing about how “clean” and “eco” their products are, but incidents like VW’s software cheating are a reminder that the auto industry has no abiding love for the green ideals it’s peddling. Volkswagen will pay dearly for its transgression, but you can be sure there are many more companies out there—both inside and out of the auto industry—that are taking advantage of the average consumer’s enjoyment of feeling environmentally friendly, without actually delivering the benefits promised. —The American Interest, 22 September 2015

Casting the fight against climate change as an urgent moral duty, Pope Francis in June urged the world to phase out highly-polluting fossil fuels. Yet in the heart of U.S. oil country several dioceses and other Catholic institutions are leasing out drilling rights to oil and gas companies to bolster their finances, Reuters has found. And in one archdiocese — Oklahoma City — Church officials have signed three new oil and gas leases since Francis’s missive on the environment, leasing documents show. On Francis’ first visit to the United States this week, the business dealings suggest that some leaders of the U.S. Catholic Church are practicing a different approach to the environment than the pontiff is preaching. —Reuters, 22 September 2015

In the United States, the Catholic Church seems in relentless decline. If it were a business, it would be the equivalent of once-mighty Xerox – a well-known, though faded, brand. The Vatican and the millions of Catholics who care about their religion hope that Pope Francis’s first visit to the United States will relight the fires in the American church. But his visit could be as divisive as it is uniting. The reformist Pope is becoming more popular among liberal Catholics, many of them Democrats, than conservative Catholics, some of whom are put off by the Pope’s views on capitalism, the environment, migration, abortion and divorce. –Eric Reguly, The Globe and Mail, 22 September 2015

Overall, the encyclical strikes us as well-meaning but somewhat naïve. Its gentle idealism longs for a world in which cats no longer chase mice, a world in which species do not kill and eat each other (most do), a world in which species no longer become extinct, despite the firmly established scientific fact that most of the species that have existed have already become extinct through the normal operation of the evolutionary process. Much of what he recommends in his “ecological spirituality” — a regular day of rest, an economic market that is our servant and not our master, and a proper recognition of the rootedness of human life in the wider natural world — is valuable and commendable. But to regard economic growth as somehow evil, and fossil fuels as pollutants, will serve only to increase the very poverty that he seeks to reduce. –Peter Forster and Bernard Donoughue, Church Times, 17 July 2015

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    Transgressions and …well lying by car companies is hardly new but we can expect more of the smoke and mirrors as regulations collide with consumer demand .
    I missed the name of that sailing vessel the Pope used to get to North America .


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    In my previous life before I moved to management, I actually worked on software development, testing and application for diesel engines performance and emissions.

    It is actually quite easy to program test-defeating subroutines in the software. The subroutine switches key mappings… and suddenly your engine is a marvel of clean emissions.

    A small team of “fraudster” engineers could easily release a software version that includes “shadow maps” and test detection algorithms, without the engineers responsible for mapping the individual functions ever knowing.

    But… The integration engineer that puts together and manages the entire SW must know – it’s impossible that the deceptive maps and algorithms would go unnoticed. And his boss would have to know, as he would be signing off the SW release. And since this is still a middle manager, no way he’d ever pull such a stunt (including hundreds of engineering hours billed to the project) without the support of senior management, all the way up the chain of command to the technical director, product director, and CEO.

    Last but not the least: often the engine management computers and software are built by external suppliers (I could name a couple huge companies): the supplier MUST have been in on the game, because he builds the logical framework of the software on VW’s specifications.

    I think this thing will hit a lot of people and a lot of companies in the auto industry value chain, VW is just the tip of the iceberg.

    – Stef from ************


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