I love my Volkswagen. I've been the custodian to several of their offerings and my current 2010 GTI is the best car I've ever owned. I can rattle off random facts at will and have their logo discreetly tattooed on my person. I will not hesitate to suggest the Jetta or Passat to someone in the market for a quality sedan, including the color I think suits it best (toffee brown, night blue, respectively). I met a lot of my close pals through VWs and have made fantastic memories (some of which I cannot share here) at events that catered particularly to the German autos. To simply summarize, I have to thank Volkswagen for being such an integral part of my life.
Volkswagen was on top of the world, quite literally, just last week. Earlier in the year, they surpassed Toyota as the largest manufacturer in the universe. Granted, I understand that they have many makes under their corporate umbrella, but that's besides the point. And they're constantly collecting awards from all facets of the automotive realm. They were doing great. Then, it seems just overnight, their whole universe started collapsing. It was discovered that a defeat device was programmed into their 2.0L diesels that allowed the NOx levels to read much lower for testing purposes, thus tricking the EPA into believing it was a 'clean' diesel when clearly it was not. And out came the opportunistic wolves.
In a matter of a day, my newsfeed and morning news programs were filled with what appeared to me as one-sided reporting from "credible" news sources as well as the opinionated populous. They all had to get their two cents in on the future of VW. It ranged from those who never supported VW in the first place, to people looking to make waves in the pool that was already far from calm waters. And the class action suits! Oh, how they amuse me! Hurry kids, join now or risk missing out on your $1.27 piece of the pie!
Some even so boldly touted that the marque was doomed. Doomed I tell ya! Others opined that they would never drive or buy another VW. Ever. A handful of TDI owners are currently losing sleep over resale values (who doesn't drive a diesel to the ground though, honestly?). Drivers of competing cars, namely those of alternative fuel sources, clamored that the final days of diesel power were fast approaching. It was atrocious, and yet, totally understandable. I mean, why wouldn't the Davids of the world kick Goliath when he was down?
Yet it would be foolish to try and downplay what is obviously a very serious issue. A large percentage of Volkswagen's vehicles sold or on sale in the US (and abroad) are diesel-powered. VW has placed a stop-sale on any new or used car at dealerships that are powered by the 2.0L TDI until a fix is found. No doubt this is going to have an impact on VW sales for the foreseeable future. This alone would be reason enough to expedite a solution to this problem. How it will effect the gasoline-powered traffic in the dealerships is still to be seen. Furthermore, I do not want to discount those that bought TDIs looking to make a positive impact on the environment while reaping the benefit of greater miles per gallon. I can understand that they may feel the most 'cheated,' but they should be mindful that the levels discovered now are similar to those that were the standard ten years ago.
As an enthusiast and obvious fanboi, the thing that I don't get is why aren't these so-called news agencies talking to supporters of VW? You know, the ones that will undoubtably stand by their side through this whole debacle. The ones who are now adorned with 21st century scarlet letters. The ones who realize that although this issue needs to be resolved ASAP, it hasn't killed anybody like GM's disastrous ignition switch fiasco. The ones that are posting pictures of how their VWs saved their lives in terrible crashes. Or have otherwise treated them well over the years. Or the positive relationships that blossomed with their helpful neighborhood Volkswagen dealerships. Why isn't more light being shined on this? Why is the mainstream media convinced that good journalism means tipping the scales in the favor of driving traffic to their respective websites with clickbait headlines? Last I checked, fair and balanced was a pretty good motto to stand behind. Yet I see nothing fair nor balanced in the reporting as the story unfolds. But don't worry, I am really starting to enjoy retelling the facts every time someone finds out I drive a VW, as if they are all diesel-powered and evil.
The unfortunate circumstances that are currently surrounding the marque I'm so fond of are not going to shift my perception of the brand. While I recognize that what 'they' did is reprehensible, you can't hold an entire company, more specifically the largest auto manufacturer in the world, responsible for the actions of a fraction of the employees. Upper management openly admitted to cheating the EPA emissions testing for the better part of seven model years. Dr. Martin Winterkorn stepped down as CEO, even though he was adamant in not being privy to any information regarding his company's wrong-doings. I consider that a bit cowardice, but that's neither here nor there. Apparently German businesses are top-down entities, so if it's shown that the uppermost management was ignorant of what his company was up to, then he has to go. Hopefully his successor will choose the correct path to right the wrongs.
And that's what the fate of the company's reputation balances on. How exactly will VW respond to this? They've pledged to take action in correcting whatever mistakes and missteps have happened, but for now those are just promises without results. Which is to be expected, considering the diesel smoke has yet to dissipate, metaphorically speaking of course. Some folks made the suggestion that part of the astronomical fines be directed towards creating a larger charging network, which would benefit the environment, but also the slow-selling e-Golf. I think that's a fine idea that will unfortunately take years to be realized.
As an aside, I think it's important to touch upon other forms of diesel engines and their emissions requirements. Certain diesel pick-up trucks in New Jersey don't even require inspection. They can run those stacks that puff plumes of black smoke whenever they bury the throttle all day long and not have to worry about their manufacturer being persecuted. Why aren't people more up in arms over the diesel trucks that are idling next to them in traffic? Additionally, older passenger diesels (think Mercedes-Benz and their ubiquitous 'D' models) are not required to be inspected, let alone be governed by the EPA. Again, this doesn't mean I am against the progress of emissions technology, I just think it's important to include these vehicles in the discussion as well.
So whether or not you're a supporter, a dissenter, or just someone looking to flap their gums on a subject they know nothing about, it's important to look at the larger picture of emissions control and reductions. Without incidents like these, it's easy to forget that we really need to focus on making it a cleaner planet for those who will be filling their cars with the decaying remains of our decomposing corpses, err, I mean fossil fuels. There's only one blue marble we call home and we want to make sure we keep it in the ring.
After the EPA has made an example of Volkswagen, I will continue to put my faith in the brand that I've stood behind for more than 12 years. My next car will most likely be wearing the VW badge (and hopefully an 'R' one as well), and I will continue to support them when they need it most, so long as they do the right thing. God forbid they screw it up though. Laser removal of tattoos is costly and painful and I can't imagine a <gasp> Subaru key in my pocket. My buddy Dan put it quite candidly, "In the end, it's like being a Tom Brady fan...it sucks finding out your favorite team cheated.."
Until then, I urge everyone who owns and enjoys their VWs to keep doing what you were doing last week...driving the cars you've come to love.