Autumn has always been a wonderful time to be in Happy Valley.
The leaves are changing, and chasse is on the menu at the local auberge.
So imagine my anger when I learned that the crisp, pure autumn air I’ve been breathing is perhaps not as crisp and pure as I had thought.
I’m speaking of course of VW’s Dieselgate, a story that would make Boris and Natasha proud.
To wit: At last count, 11 million VW Group cars (specifically VW, Audi, Skoda and SEAT) have been fitted over the past 6 years with special software code. This code contains an algorhythm. This algogrythm enables the vehicle to know when it is being tested in a laboratory for emissions. This in turn allows the car to alter its behaviour during testing to produce emission levels, particularly Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) levels, that comply with (strict) U.S. and (less strict) EU standards. Complying then means the cars can be sold to folks like you and me. Real world driving results, however, have shown NOx emissions to be significantly worse — like up to 40 times worse — than those logged in the lab. It seems that to deliver compliant results in all situations, VW would have had to have spent more money (one report suggests 329 francs per car) on additional emissions-reduction measures. Which, it seems, VW decided not to do.
At last count, Switzerland appears to have approximately 130,000 affected cars already on the road. As for the effect on the environment, and on our health…I can’t even guess. Perhaps the first Swiss suit filed the other day against VW, which includes accusations of homicide and bodily harm, will shed some light on the estimated impact.
Bern, showing strong leadership and, I assume, concern for human well-being, has been a world leader in banning the sale of affected cars. Given that VW’s core brands account year-to-date for almost 30% of Swiss new cars sales, that makes for a substantial impact across the country.
And that impact extends to Happy Valley.
With sales of those cars banned, there’s of course the promise of better air quality in the Valley. There’s the unquantifiable gift of less eyesores on our streets — this assuming that the Skoda Yeti ends up being on the list of banned cars. And there’s some unexpected potential pluses as well: For example, in a previous dispatch I explained how the local fire department’s standard operating procedure for car fires involves trying to confirm the fuel type of a burning car before attempting to put out the blaze. But now with what some pundits say will be the death of diesel, imagine the time, and potential lives, saved…as debates and discussions among response crews (“It’s a petrol.” ” No. It’s a diesel.” No, it’s a petrol.”, No. It’s a diesel.” etc.) will be reduced significantly.
On a less positive note, your correspondent sympathises with those in the Valley whose lives have depended on selling VWs, and who frankly had no idea of the years of XXL fraud being committed by the brand. My thoughts are also with drivers who put their trust in the brand, and bought affected cars in good faith.
So, who can we blame for all of this? The answer typically given is, of course, VW. Certainly that would seem the likeliest answer, given that VW has admitted their deceit.
Yet after talking about the scandal with folks here in the Valley, it seems that many believe that a more nefarious culprit is behind the scandal.
And that culprit is the U.S.
The line of thought goes like this: It’s just like with the U.S attacks on Swiss banks. Because Dieselgate is all about the U.S. wanting to weaken Europe’s corporate titans. After all, is it not a strange coincidence that the emissions investigation started in the U.S? And is it not a bit odd that Opel, owned by GM (an American company) has been out of the spotlight? As for the endgame…well, if VW is humbled, presumably great American brands like Buick and DeLorean can rise again to the great heights they once occupied. Heck, we might even see the rebirth globally of Pontiac, Oldsmobile and De Soto!
You heard it here first, folks. First the banks, and now cars.
By the Happy Valley Correspondent