VW Say it Aint So… An Enormous Sustainability and Brand Fail

VWs, I used to love them. But how can I now? How can anyone?

Manipulating emissions tests? Wow? That’s the stuff of movies not real life.

The only question, really, is how hard and how long will VW be punished?

If experience is telling, probably not hard enough and not for too long, and that’s too bad.

Remember our outrage at Walmart and its systemic bribing of Mexican officials to avoid zoning and environmental protection laws? Its stock went down 20% for a week or two, until, like the stuff on its shelves, it became a bargain and investors bid it right back up. VW’s is down 17% as I write…

But cars are not cheap towels or televisions. We stake our lives and that of our families on them every time we turn the starter. So perhaps the spanking will last longer? I know I want to trust without reservation what the makers of my car say about their vehicles.

Of course, that is just the consumer side of the story.

On other side is that of the silent nasty emissions VW put in the air against their owners wishes. Even a quick look at VW’s branding tells us they sold their diesel on the three legged stool of performance, efficiency and environmentally friendliness.

Egregious emission manipulation should have us screaming for a class action suit not just on behalf of the owners, but for all the fauna, flora and other innocent bystanders affected by the extra nasties we thought were not being emitted.

…VW diesel engines produced as much as 40 times the allowed nitrogen

oxide which contributes to respiratory problems including

asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

BP had to pay for the remediation its incompetence, willful or not, wreaked black and sticky in the Gulf. Just because we can’t see emissions, doesn’t mean the impacts are not there or that VW shouldn’t be held accountable for them.

Finally, and unlike the financial rating companies and investment banks whose manipulations nearly led to a global economic meltdown, whatever pain VW feels, it needs to be heavy, something it cannot simply shrug off, close to bankruptcy heavy.

VW’s current strategy seems to be to stay ahead of punitive damage by saying it will repair the rigged cars. That’s nice but the least it can do. Unfortunately, a recall would only cost the company a reported USD 7.3 billion, or about half a year’s profit…. kind of like losing your allowance for a while.

Only brink-of-bankruptcy pain will do. Pain enough to cause a shareholder revolt which rudely shakes out in career-ending ways every executive not sensible enough, smart enough, and committed to the environment enough to have avoided being part of this willful act of environmental sabotage. It has to be enough pain to cause any executive anywhere to sit up and pay attention.

If we believe unsustainable companies must go, and market forces are the most efficient way to get them gone, my advice: buy a Nissan Leaf or a Toyota Prius, and don’t buy VW until they have clearly made amends.

 

 

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