Having been a Volkswagen owner from 1976 to 2001, I’m saddened about the ongoing news of the automaker’s deception in cheating on emissions tests.
Volkswagen admitted this week that 11 million diesel cars worldwide were equipped “defeat device” software to evade environmental standards for reducing smog, which means they did a lot more damage to the air than tests indicated. The Environmental Protection Agency last week accused the German company of breaking the law and ordered the recall of a half-million, four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi vehicles from model years 2009-15.
It turned out to only be the tip of the iceberg. Now other countries are investigating whether they also were deceived by the automaker.
Volkswagen stock plunged, its chief executive since 2007, Martin Winterkorn, resigned Wednesday and its status in challenging Toyota for the world’s No. 1 carmaker title for now is kaput. The confidence that car buyers had in Volkswagens has taken a serious blow particularly from people who care about the environment.
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Volkswagens have always had the reputation of being driven by old hippy-type, California-loving tree-huggers.
VWs from the old Beetles to the buses were always viewed as long-lasting, durable and infinitely vehicles. So much so that an old friend used to quip: “Beneath every Volkswagen lies its owner... making badly needed repairs.”
My first VW was a 1969 bus, which I drove throughout the South, Southwest, Northeast and Northwest United States. I traded it in for a 1985 Vanagon, which I drove all over the country and into Canada before trading it in in 2001. Yes, both of my VWs required a lot of repairs to keep them running. But each lasted more than 16 years and more than 200,000 miles.
Volkswagen isn’t the first automaker to get into trouble, and it’s not going to be the last. How the company handles the scandal will determine whether its comeback path will be rocky and uphill or a smooth straight-a-way short road back to its old self.
If current and former VW owners are like me they’re hoping it’s the latter.