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Volkswagen's Shame and Challenge to Sustainability Management

Steven Cohen's picture
The Earth Institute, Columbia University
  • Member since 2018
  • 101 items added with 52,829 views
  • Sep 22, 2015
Joe Schiewe's picture
Joe Schiewe on Sep 22, 2015

I wonder if Volkswagon actually is ashamed.  They probably will come out ahead even with the fine. I do believe that we could get their attention if they were not allowed to sell any vehicles in theUSuntil all the deceptive vehicles being recalled are corrected and pass a subsequent emissions test.  Fat chance.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Sep 23, 2015

When I read this story on line, what struck me  was how a German Company given all the German Energiewende climate change Bluster, willfully and knowingly put health and climate change at risk when it came to German Products. I do wonder whether Angela Merkel’s government knew or should have known about what VW was up to.

Anyway, leave it to Steven Cohen to find some way to further tarnish the Republicans (unneccessarily I think). At leasts You can’t blame the republicans for VW’s actions, not even Steven can find one on the Board ast VW.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Sep 24, 2015

According to this news report, German Ministers were warned of VW’s Cheating. Obviously the German Government must have been infiltrated by Republicans:

Quote: : German government ministers reportedly turned a blind eye to Volkswagen installing cheat devices to fool U.S. diesel emissions tests, raising the possibility that the mushrooming scandal could cause embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

So much for their commitment to saving the environment

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Sep 25, 2015

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 26, 2015

Jan, VW was doing well in Europe with diesels, but American standards are tough on NOx. If they thought their cars’ performance wouldn’t make them salable in the U.S. market, so be it. Give up the market.

Instead, VW cheated. They weren’t pushed to any wall – they just wanted to make more money than they already were.

VW could have invested in electric cars years ago. I remember well the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, when VW was the only major manufacturer on the floor not displaying an EV prototype. When I asked the rep why, he told me VW didn’t believe in electric vehicles, that diesel was the way of the future, that diesel emissions will be as good as the best American gasoline cars.

My heart goes out to VW daughters with crooked teeth, especially those with Moms and Dads to be laid off because a select few employees chose to be dishonest. In retrospect, how productive was the strategy of putting profit über alles?

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Sep 26, 2015

The problem with the latest tier is that the emissions standards are so strict that the gases coming out of the exhaust get to the point that they are cleaner than the air going in. Simply put, they are impossible to reach, absent post-exhaust aftertreatments, machinery, and chemicals, all at large expense and operational complexity. “

Diesel engines may have severe difficulty in meeting the US emissions standard, but it is not the case that the US emissions standard requires cleaner air out than in, as gasoline engines routinely meet the standard (0.07 g/mi NOx light duty fleet).  

In 2007 GM executive Bob Lutz publicly addressed the “why not diesel”.  He notes that the US NOx standard was six times higher than the EU standard, which was obtainable by diesel only via extensive exhaust treatment (e.g urea, etc).  I can only speculate on the rationale for such a difference. Technical reasons include the vehicle ownership rate; the US rate is nearly double that of the EU. More cars per city means more NOx per city.   Political reasons would include a low standard in the EU to promote its diesel manufacturers at the cost of additional smog, and in the US an unreasonably high standard would protect US manufacturers from EU diesel imports.

Bob Lutz on Diesel, 2007


Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Sep 27, 2015


My understanding is that the lab that revealed the fraud also tested BMWs and the BMWs were okay. No?

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Sep 27, 2015

I just saw an article in the WSJ saying yes the BMW passed as it was a larger vehicle, plus 1600 lbs, and much more expensive than the small VWs so that the cost of the NOx suppression was a small fraction of the total price.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 27, 2015

Mark, it seems BMW buyers would be more influenced by reduced performance issues than price.

WSJ have anything to say about that?

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Sep 27, 2015

With a sufficiently expensive diesel engine and emissions system I think only fuel mileage and weight is sacrificed to achieve the emissions standard, primarily by rerouting some fuel to a secondary burn in the emissions system to destroy NOx.  But this is speculation; I don’t know any specifics of the BMW design beyond what’s given in the article.



“The study focused on three diesel vehicles: two modest VW sedans and a much larger, more expensive BMW SUV.

The BMW was a full 1,600 pounds heavier—thus naturally suited to diesel, with its low-revving torque—and carried twice the sticker price, helping to accommodate elaborate clean-diesel technology. The BMW’s mileage was good, not spectacular, and the vehicle met EPA’s nitrogen-oxide limits.”

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 28, 2015

Jan, somehow Carlos Ghosn of Nissan was able to see around the obstacles and innovate.

I test-drove a “mule” Leaf (modified Sentra) for Nissan in March 2010 and was impressed (not sure why you think EV batteries weigh in at “thousands of pounds” – the Leaf’s battery pack is 600 lbs.). Its acceleration blows away comparable ICE-powered cars, and trust me – it has no problem getting up to highway speeds. Range is rarely an issue, and every year it’s less of one.

The days of sacrificing the environment for cheap “performance” are long over. Languishing in obsolete technology, VW saw a corner they thought they could cut, and will learn the hard way that U.S. consumers don’t need their cars. Many other options.

Steven Cohen's picture
Thank Steven for the Post!
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