To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you simply can’t expect to fool all of the people all of the time”. That, at least is the impression from latest captivating developments at
deeply troubled Volkswagen, which appears to be sinking deeper and deeper into the morass.
Why one of the world’s leading carmakers, which prides itself in spending more on R&D than anyone else in the auto-business, has knowingly entered such a minefield of risks is anybody’s guess.
To cap it all, the acronym TDI - carried with pride by most of the group’s diesel vehicles - was trumpeted and perceived by its customers as the ultimate distinction of top-notch technological excellence.
Overnight, that enviable image now lies in the dust in tatters.
So given that its key rivals, say Mercedes, have by self admission met these legal diesel emission hurdles without resorting to Volkswagen’s infamous smoke and mirror trickery, there is no doubt that Volkswagen Group could have done likewise.
One wonders, given that lesser rivals in the cost-sensitive mass car market like Peugeot-Citroen have presumably mastered the challenge, why Volkswagen resorted to deception.
Aside from this week’s alleged new deceptions on the NOx front from its 3-litre V6 diesels on US shores - which the company denies - Volkswagen, while digging, unearthed yet another bombshell.
That’s the self-admission of what it calls irregularities on claimed CO2 emissions for some of its cars. That’s to mean overstating fuel-economy.
So while NOx emissions appear to carry next to no weight in the minds of average motorists,
CO2 emissions, if overstated, can seriously hurt consumers’ wallets.
That’s because of CO2-linked vehicle taxation in some European markets.
Hence, VW now says that that on its own could hit the company with another €2bn in likely compensation.
But for now the suspicion lurks that potentially the recall of up to 11 million VW Group diesels could evolve into a ticking time bomb.
These affected VW Group diesels, ending up back with their owners after the vital software and/or hardware modifications to make them legal, could be toothless tigers.
Following a conceivable treatment tantamount to castration, these cars will no doubt meet today’s NOx emission norm.
But, ostensibly the price paid could be a car lacking the very qualities that sparked the purchase of a VW Group TDI in the first instance.
That’s foremost the cars’ famed agility, keen throttle response and generally excellent fuel-economy.
Marks of excellence that likely tempted today’s happy owners into a TDI badged diesel from the now disgraced Volkswagen Group stable.
Apart from very serious future bloodletting, spiralling potentially to billions of euros, plus serious lasting damage to Germany’s famed automotive ‘Ingenieurskunst’ – engineering ingenuity – for the Volkswagen Group, there is something far more fearful looming on the immediate horizon.
That’s millions of potentially unhappy owners of VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda diesels.
If indeed it turns out that way, and the jury remains out on that crucial issue until the completion of the physical recall, it could take half a decade at best to regain once more the prime essential trust from its potentially deeply disgruntled diesel customers.
Conceivably, this will hurt – a lot.
But then again, a company that arrogantly tried and eventually failed to fool legislators and potentially disappoints millions of its diesel customers really can’t expect anything