Volkswagen's Dieselgate

Rambo

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Anyone following this story:

VW cheated on U.S. pollution tests for 'clean diesels'

This was a good blog post on it:

Pure evil, VW edition

Pure evil, VW edition

September 18, 2015 By Mark Kleiman @markarkleiman 16 Comments

I don’t suppose we’ll never know how many people died – asthmatics, for example – because Volkswagen designed its “clean diesel” vehicles – all 482,000 of them sold in the U.S. since 2009 – to burn dirty except when they were being tested. The story reads like the most paranoid anti-corporate fantasy, until you get to the line where the firm admits what it did, and then discover that Honda and Ford got caught years ago doing the same thing in a less sophisticated way. There’s even a term of art for such tricks: they’re called “defeat devices” because they’re designed to defeat emissions testing.

In the VW case, code was written into the engine-control software to detect the pattern of pedal and steering operations characteristic of an emissions test. Then, and only then, the car’s emissions-control machinery would kick in. Once the test was over, the software noticed that, too, and returned to normal – that is to say, illegally and dangerously dirty – operations. That meant emitting about 40x the permitted -and advertised – level of nitrous oxide, which makes smog.

Now just think about the depth of corporate depravity involved. This wasn’t one rogue engineer or engineering group at work. People up and down the chain had to be party to the crime. And note that the conspiracy held together for six years, and was finally broken not by an internal leak but by the work of outside scientists at West Virginia University. Wasn’t there a single decent human being around when this was being planned and carried out?

Some quick comments:

1. The news stories discuss fines that might be levied against VW. When people conspire to commit a crime that harms the health of untold numbers of people, criminal charges are appropriate. And not only against the company, but against every official in it who can be shown to have known about the conspiracy.

2. At minimum, the civil penalties and civil-lawsuit damages should be sufficient to put VW out of business. That might make managers, and boards of directors, in other firms a little bit less casual about lawbreaking.

3. Keep this case in mind when evaluating the claim oft heard from Koch-funded “criminal justice reform” advocates that it’s wrong to “criminalize” regulatory violations. Of course no one should go to jail for paperwork errors. But deceiving the regulators is a fraud on the government, even when it isn’t – as it is in this case – a physical assault on the public.

4. Can we hear some more from the Republican Presidential candidates how business is Good and government is Evil? And is there any hope that a reporter will ask them whether they think the perpetrators of this appalling crime should face prison time for it? (Again, note that VW isn’t denying what was done, and can’t possibly deny that it was done deliberately.)

Footnote I’ve quoted C.S. Lewis on this before, but his words bear repeating:

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.

The most horrible thing about this case is that very few if any of the people involved will have lost any sleep over their guilt in making sick people sicker (and killing some of them) and none will lose face among their friends and neighbors. Even if some are found guilty of felonies, life won’t be nearly as bad for them as it is for someone who gets caught committing burglary. And yet no burglar’s contribution to human suffering can hold a candle to what the VW conspirators managed to inflict.
 

Russell Street

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The only opinion I have on this matter is that emissions tests are a scam.
In the same vein of "what is the crime of robbing a bank compared to the crime of owning a bank," it's hard for me to fault one for gaming a test when the test itself is an exercise in bureaucratic extortion.
Oh, also it's a shame that diesels, the only VWs that one I'd buy with a gun to my head, are at the center of this.
 

LKP

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VolkwagEn! PLEASE!

I think VW is only the first manufacturer - others will follow...
 

Russell Street

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Going back to the last milennium, GM had some shenanigans on Camaros that made you choose awkwardly high gears in order to avoid gas guzzler taxes, and they brazenly winked at reviewers and told them not to cut the green wire to defeat this.
When you try to slap the invisible hand of the market, the market slaps back.
 

Leitmotif

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Good heavens! Im glad my aryan warrior is not diesel! If not LelandJ would have a fit
 

Rambo

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The CEO is sowrry

Volkswagen Group Statement of Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG:

Wolfsburg, 2015-09-20
Statement of Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board (EPA and CARB) revealed their findings that while testing diesel cars of the Volkswagen Group they have detected manipulations that violate American environmental standards.

The Board of Management at Volkswagen AG takes these findings very seriously. I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case. Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation of this matter.

We do not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law.

The trust of our customers and the public is and continues to be our most important asset. We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust that so many people have placed in us, and we will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused. This matter has first priority for me, personally, and for our entire Board of Management.
 

Russell Street

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I wish they'd do a Trump and just say "Your regulations are stupid. Of course we optimized our product to pass your stupid test. We did nothing wrong, suck it!"
 

Scherensammler

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my aryan warrior!
Is that your number plate?

VolkwagEn! PLEASE!

I think VW is only the first manufacturer - others will follow...
Most likely, since the Diesel engines are heavily regulated in some states (AFAIK, California has the toughest rules regarding emissions).

In Europe Diesel was promoted to be better because of the lower fuel consumption and they granted massive tax reductions for Diesel cars. Up to the point when they became very popular and scientists found out that their emissions are a health hazard.
And then they increased the taxes massively, so unless you drive at least 30 to 40 thousand miles a year, the savings on lower consumption and fuel price is eaten up by the higher tax.

Anyway, compared to the dirt a regular lorry/ truck throws out of his exhaust when shifting down, even the oldest Diesel car can be considered "clean" by comparison.

And given the wide spread use of coal power plants in the US, this is likely a set-up to blame another party/ competitor and file massive legal cases against Volkswagen!
So, if you are a US citizen and your neighbour drives a VW Diesel car you will have suffered immensely from the fumes and you are entitled to millions of compensations. Good times for lawyers again...
 

Rambo

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I wish they'd do a Trump and just say "Your regulations are stupid. Of course we optimized our product to pass your stupid test. We did nothing wrong, suck it!"
You're trolling, right? This is an elaborate troll job? You're living under a bridge right now with a club in your hand?
 

Russell Street

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You're trolling, right? This is an elaborate troll job? You're living under a bridge right now with a club in your hand?
No. Intrusive government regulations beg to be evaded. They want fuel economy, diesels have it in spades. Ooh but parts per billion of microparticulates that might kill bubble boy! The crime is that the EPA has over 100 employees. This is just teaching to the test.

And this nonsense about asthmatics, please. If you are so wheezy that a little smoke is going to cause grave health issues, go around wearing a respirator. Your pre-existing deficiency is not our problem.
 

Scherensammler

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And this nonsense about asthmatics, please. If you are so wheezy that a little smoke is going to cause grave health issues, go around wearing a respirator. Your pre-existing deficiency is not our problem.
But I'm sure hundreds of shady law firms are buying advertising on TV and radio right now, asking people to contact them about a claim related to an increased health problem caused by VW cars. Not any other manufacturer, mind you. Although AUDI might be next, since they use basically the same engines. And SKODA and SEAT.
Perhaps, like with cigarettes, cars will have to have a sticker saying "Warning! Driving this car can kill you and others around you!"
 

Thruth

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Oh those sneaky Germans. First the thermal reactors on BMW's instead of catalytic converters. What did they do? Cracked from the heat. Now this.
 

Russell Street

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Yes, there is a proper gag about feigning surprise that VW devised a piece of equipment that reliably performed the function that it was designed to do.
I wish they'd do a Trump and just say "Your regulations are stupid. Of course we optimized our product to pass your stupid test. We did nothing wrong, suck it!"
Apparently they did, at least privately.
 

prince nez

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I was unaware of this thread - so I linked to the story in the general automotive thread as well.

Apologies.

:pokerface:
 

Rambo

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Oh those sneaky Germans. First the thermal reactors on BMW's instead of catalytic converters. What did they do? Cracked from the heat. Now this.
Don't forget about the Audi acceleration issue in the 80's.
 

Russell Street

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Don't forget about the Audi acceleration issue in the 80's.
I thought that was a big nothing entirely attributable to stupid fuckers driver error like that Toyota thing a few years back. Basically, people somehow so inept as to step on the wrong pedal.
 

Thruth

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Don't forget about the Audi acceleration issue in the 80's.
I thought that was a big nothing entirely attributable to stupid fuckers driver error like that Toyota thing a few years back. Basically, people somehow so inept as to step on the wrong pedal.
I believe that was thoroughly disproven by NHTSA who surmised that Americans were not used to the brake pedal shape, smaller size and thus a positional difference from US makers (closer to the accelerator)

Audi did add the tranny interlock device so clumsy soccer moms could not put it in drive with their foot on the brake, no accelerator, no accel-o-brake and squash their chillens against the garage wall.

Nope, can blame ze Germans for this one.

But we can still blame them for giving David Hasselhoff a singing career in the EU
 

prince nez

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Jesus imagine if they actually drove real cars with manual gearboxes. Always forgetting to check the gear and starting it in 1st... Lol sorry was that your legs?
 

Thruth

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Jesus imagine if they actually drove real cars with manual gearboxes. Always forgetting to check the gear and starting it in 1st... Lol sorry was that your legs?
Yeah, don't try explaining heel-toe shifting to soccer moms
 

MFDoom

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I wish they'd do a Trump and just say "Your regulations are stupid. Of course we optimized our product to pass your stupid test. We did nothing wrong, suck it!"
You know, it does raise an interesting question: if the testing protocols are so different from everyday driving that VW can set criteria to recognize them and alter their performance well enough to pass them - doesn't that indicate that the testing is flawed?

I mean, if you want to establish a baseline from which you can extrapolate effect, use a representative sample. The testers should have been driving like everyday drivers IMHO.
 

Russell Street

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You know, it does raise an interesting question: if the testing protocols are so different from everyday driving that VW can set criteria to recognize them and alter their performance well enough to pass them - doesn't that indicate that the testing is flawed?
I think they've tried to update it, like acknowledging that nobody actually drives at 55mph so it's retarded to test there and have manufacturers build cars set for peak efficiency at a speed that drivers blow through while toggling between 35 and 75. However, I've chronicled how it took months of driving for my car to experience the exact desired "drive cycles" that fill out computer data points so that the thing could even be tested for emissions to pass state inspection, so there is refinement needed.
 

prince nez

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Hey I remember when you had to double de clutch on a truck.
My first car had no synchro on first - I had the option of buying one and fitting it to the box but the guy selling it wanted something ridiculous like $500 which was about half the value of the car. Then there was the time the clutch cable failed altogether and I had to drive the thing home in second. And then one time the starter motor failed so I was crank starting it for a few months there. Combined with the total lack of assisted steering I got more jacked than Pauly Chase.
 

Journeyman

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My first car had no synchro on first - I had the option of buying one and fitting it to the box but the guy selling it wanted something ridiculous like $500 which was about half the value of the car. Then there was the time the clutch cable failed altogether and I had to drive the thing home in second. And then one time the starter motor failed so I was crank starting it for a few months there. Combined with the total lack of assisted steering I got more jacked than Pauly Chase.
Crank-starting it? What the heck were you driving - a Ford Model T?
 

Journeyman

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CEO stepped down.
Not surprising, given the enormous amount of negative publicity and the probable cost to VW.

What I'm having trouble grasping is why VW did this in the first place? Is it because they decided that it was it cheaper to "game" the emissions tests and to run the risk of being discovered, than to make cars that would properly pass the emissions tests (and presumably have lower regular emissions on a daily basis)?

If so, that was a bet that's just failed massively.
 

OfficePants

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Up to the point when they became very popular and scientists found out that their emissions are a health hazard.
VW is a side show. This is the real story. Diesel is much more damaging to health than previously known or reported (or covered up). Now all the tail wagging politicians touting diesel look stupid and it's almost impossible to wind back the regulations.


You're trolling, right? This is an elaborate troll job? You're living under a bridge right now with a club in your hand?
Russell has never seen a regulation that was not "intrusive". Nor would he ever fund research on the health effects of diesel. Just love the sulfur and shut up, I guess.

No. Intrusive government regulations beg to be evaded. They want fuel economy, diesels have it in spades. Ooh but parts per billion of microparticulates that might kill bubble boy! The crime is that the EPA has over 100 employees. This is just teaching to the test.

And this nonsense about asthmatics, please. If you are so wheezy that a little smoke is going to cause grave health issues, go around wearing a respirator. Your pre-existing deficiency is not our problem.
Clever job flipping the argument. The key word here is evasion, which you try to imbue with that "intrusive" word. The evasion is a fact, the intrusiveness is an opinion.

I agree that there are stupidly worded regulations, and that businesses seeks to evade them at any and every turn. I just wonder why you see value in it. The spirit of the regulation is efficient and clean burning cars.

Just to flip the argument back, see the documentary "who killed the electric car" if you want to discuss intrusion on quality, effective technology. And ask Mobil how many patents it's bought and buried so it can keep the oil machine chugging.

One man's intrusion is another man's boondoggle.
 

Rambo

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CEO is out

They've set aside $7.2 billion for claims.

That won't be NEARLY enough.
 

OfficePants

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Things have changed. The internet has matured much in the past decade. The outrage machine cannot be stopped quite so easily now.
Pfff, outrage? Have you read the Elite thread lately? Corporations own everything. Nothing substantive will happen, I promise you.
 

Rambo

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Pfff, outrage? Have you read the Elite thread lately? Corporations own everything. Nothing substantive will happen, I promise you.
Legally you mean? Oh, I completely agree. None of these fucks will get the axe, literally. I just don't think that the 7bil will be enough to fix all the claims once the other countries get involved. South Korea announced today that they're investigating the cars as well. It will continue onward.
 

Leitmotif

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Since VW owns audi and a fuck load of other automakers im guessing they are all involved. Will be an interesting outcome for sure.
 

MFDoom

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Not surprising, given the enormous amount of negative publicity and the probable cost to VW.

What I'm having trouble grasping is why VW did this in the first place? Is it because they decided that it was it cheaper to "game" the emissions tests and to run the risk of being discovered, than to make cars that would properly pass the emissions tests (and presumably have lower regular emissions on a daily basis)?

If so, that was a bet that's just failed massively.
LOL just like the Ford Pinto.
 

OfficePants

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Legally you mean? Oh, I completely agree. None of these fucks will get the axe, literally. I just don't think that the 7bil will be enough to fix all the claims once the other countries get involved. South Korea announced today that they're investigating the cars as well. It will continue onward.
Won't happen. Would mean all automakers suffer the same scrutiny, and they all do the same shit.
 

Rambo

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Won't happen. Would mean all automakers suffer the same scrutiny, and they all do the same shit.
Really? They all use specific software to game environmental regulations?
 
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