“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I had always liked VW’s. I enjoyed the cozy feel, crank windows, stick shift, and the mystery that goes with not having a gas gauge. When it sputtered, I knew to push the lever on the floor over to the right with my foot to add another gallon of fuel. That got me 40 miles or so in my small Missouri college town of Fulton.
Several weeks could pass before I needed to remember the bug was on reserve. Thus the mystery because if I forgot, the next sputter would mean I was walking. Moving the lever back to upright after refueling was important as well, or there would be no warning next time. I have great memories from my years with my little blue Beetle.
Over time, I have owned other models from this global conglomerate. Recently, I had even been communicating with a new company in San Diego, Zelectric Motors, that is refurbishing old Beetles and installing electric engines.
My Tesla Bug, as I had started calling it, would be a double win for the environment – preserving an iconic classic plus letting me drive a fully green automobile.
It is sad when a dream dies – even sadder when the cause of death is corporate betrayal.
Programming the engine’s computer system to enable it to pass emissions’ tests and comply with federally mandated clean air requirements in the shop, but then revert to it’s unhealthy behavior in real-world driving, is not what I want to build a dream on – especially when the deceit causes levels of pollution 40 times above the legal limit.
Yes, this company intentionally engineered a Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) diesel engine to do just that – not just once or for one year, but in 11 million vehicles and for over six years.
My dream is not just dead on the TDI models, but the entire lineup, top to bottom, because this is a corporate wide flaunting of the rules for an extended period of time; a betrayal that has tarnished the entire family.
A failed switch from an outside vendor, or a minor misstep, would be one thing; but this was a company wide plan to deceive authorities and deliver a vehicle to consumers who thought they were getting an environmentally friendly automobile – when, in fact, they were the unknowing participants in an environmental nightmare.
I am sad because of all of the brilliant minds that worked on this deception when they could have been working on ways to help our environment, not just finding ways to trick the regulators.
I am sad for the billions of people affected by this scam including the 11 million TDI owners, the millions of others with Volkswagen Group brands, all of the dealers, workers and suppliers for VW, Audi, Porsche, and other previously trusted brands.
I am sad for everyone in the world who has dreamed, as I did, about the magic in this funny little car.
Mostly though, I am sad for the young people who now have one more reason to think that corporations are not their friends.
As a storyteller who likes happy endings, I hope to someday be able to write about how The Volkswagen Group turned this series of tragic decisions into a story of corporate righteousness. A new story about the same brilliant engineers designing the greenest fleet on earth, about a culture shifting to open source coding (free collaborative development) to allow everyone in the green movement to work together, about corporations who value employees and customers first – before only the stock holders, and about the world’s millennials lined up at the VW employment windows hoping to go to work for this fantastic company.
My new story would end with the dream restored and my Tesla Bug in my garage, plugged into my rooftop solar panel for the night.
Do you, or anyone you know, own a TDI model? How has this news been received?
Does this, in any way, change your feeling toward the non-TDI models?
Will this situation cause any change in corporate behavior or have we all become too numb to even care?
As always, the conversation starts here.
“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran
Meet David and learn about his Electric Beetle. I hope David’s passion will survive. I still want one – when the story has a happy ending.