Tag Archives: Volkswagen criminality

The Volkswagen Debacle

In case you missed it, the folks at Volkswagen recently got caught giving the middle finger to the people and laws of the United States.

If you haven’t been following this scandal – and it IS a scandal – Volkswagen hatched a scheme to circumvent U.S. emissions laws to make its diesel cars (and its diesel Audis) appear environmentally friendly yet still powerful. To do this, the company built cars that emitted waaaaay too much nitrogen oxide – forty times the legal limit – and were, in part because of those illegal emissions, more powerful than cars of that type should be. It then embedded software in the cars’ electronics that, when the cars were tested for emissions, showed that the emissions were within legal limits. It sold nearly a half-million such cars in the U.S.

That’s nasty. Really nasty.

volkswagenSo far, all the company has been ordered to do is recall the cars, remove the software, and fix the engines so their emissions meet legal standards. It’ll cost the company thousands of dollars to fix each car, plus a fine of up to $18 billion, or $37,500 a car.

That’s a lot of money, to be sure, but it just doesn’t seem like enough.

And The Curmudgeon isn’t talking about money.

Somewhere in the Volkswagen company, someone came up with this idea, a bunch of people talked about and presumably debated it, and someone – maybe the CEO, maybe someone else – exercised the ultimate authority and declared “Yes, let’s do it. Let’s do this thing that helps us make money even though we know we’ll be breaking American laws” (or words to that effect).

Why shouldn’t the “Yes, let’s do it” person (or people) be prosecuted?

And if the company can’t help U.S. investigators identify that ultimate authority or authorities, why should the U.S. permit that company to continue selling its cars in this country when it has made such a willful, deliberate decision to violate our laws?

What about banning the sale of those cars in the U.S. – for a year? Maybe three years? Maybe five years?

That’ll probably get them to turn over the guilty party.

Personal accountability is essential. The resignation of the company’s CEO isn’t enough – not when the person or people who made the decision get away with that decision and the company, not the decision-maker, pays the financial penalty. The decision-maker needs to pay a penalty, too – not just losing his or her job – and the message needs to be loud and clear: treat U.S. laws with such blatant contempt and disdain, mess with us like that, and it won’t just be your company that pays a serious price – it’ll be you, too.