Volkswagen’s Betrayal

Rachel Chou, Opinions Editor

Many of us have a dream: an aspiration that keeps us going with the daily grind. Ollie was going to be a present to myself once I graduated, acquired a steady income, and attained my driver’s license: a beautiful, pristine, white Beetle Convertible TDI, the essence of economical and ecological machinery. Volkswagen destroyed my dream.

Many Volkswagen Beetle lovers who have been following the recent scandal of corporate fraud share my sentiment towards Volkswagen. It was recently discovered that the German car manufacturer installed software on 11 million cars worldwide allowing them to pass stringent U.S. emissions regulations. Once on the road, the software was deactivated and the cars ran emissions levels 40 times the permitted level.

Volkswagen had been heavily promoting its “clean diesel” vehicles, hoping to score it big, especially in America. Diesel fuel offers an alternative to gasoline, boasting on average 30 percent greater energy efficiency. Volkswagen advertised that its clean diesel would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions and make for cleaner air, all thanks to “ingenious German technology.” In reality, diesel engines produce more nitrogen oxide than their gasoline-fueled counterparts, which is why Volkswagen is in trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stepped down from his position without admitting to having done anything wrong.

“I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part,” Winterkorn said.

Winterkorn will likely walk away from this debacle with a $32 million dollar pension.

Volkswagen faces a huge financial hit that will take an inveterate time to recover from. In the first four trading days since the news broke, the company’s share prices fell by one-third. Since Sept. 18, its market value has been cut by 29.6 billion dollars. The company is looking at lawsuits, recall costs, compensation claims, and a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Perhaps most importantly, Volkswagen has lost the trust of its customers.

There are two lessons here for consumers and firms. As consumers, we need to be more conscious of latent green scheming scams, even from seemingly reputable companies like Volkswagen. Large corporations will want to monopolize on what appears to be the newest in engineered clean energy, appropriating to the popularization of environmental consciousness. Especially when stringent emissions regulations come into play, there should be very little latitude for absolute confidence. 

As for firms, Volkswagen and other green product producing firms must take corporate responsibility if they want to maintain the trust of their customers. 

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