Volkswagen – A Defense

Volkswagen undoubtedly cheated its emission standards. As summarized by @fhenrey1995 “Volkswagen cheated emissions testing for years by using special software on its lines of diesel engines. “ The company did this in response to increasing regulations required by the European Clean Diesel Act to create highly efficient engines that burn cleaner diesel fuels. Although it’s apparent that Volkswagen should not have lied to its stakeholders regarding the efficiency of its engines, I’d like to introduce a defense for Volkswagen in arguing that unfair and ineffective regulations forced automakers to adopt risky practices.


While Europe and America have been historically consistent with their automobile technologies, Europe has shifted its research capacity towards developing a clean diesel powertrain. European legislators viewed diesel technology as being an energy efficient, lower emission substitute for regular gas powered vehicles. According to Clean Diesel Tech, Diesel is superior for its 10-25% less fuel consumption, 15% less CO2 emissions, and lower fuel costs due to lower national taxation and an increased supply of diesel fuel from Russia. However, a report by Michel Cames and Eckard Helmers of Environmental Sciences Europe provides that expected greenhouse gas savings initiated by the shift to diesel cars have been overestimated due to the propensity of diesel to “burn dirty” particularly at low speeds and temperatures. All the while, the European governments pushed for the widespread adoption of the diesel engine resulting in “55% of all new vehicle registrations [being] for diesel cars.”


As a result, Europe has an “economically and environmentally misaligned car industry” thus putting greater pressure on Volkswagen and other automobile manufactures to develop a truly “clean” diesel engine. While proving economically difficult to develop such an engine, Volkswagen CEO Bern Pischetsrieder, stated that diesel can only survive in large cars as “the high cost of tailpipe emission treatment could only be internalized in more expensive segments of the car market.” As a result, Volkswagen was unable to develop an ideal “clean diesel” engine and resorted to a superficial commitment to environmental virtue.


Do you think the industry regulations provided by the Clean Diesel Act were too ambitious? Was Volkswagen unfairly pressured to create a “magic” engine that was both efficient and extremely environmentally friendly? What difference does this make? Does the illumination of regulatory pressure have any affect on your perception of the Volkswagen scandal?


Please comment and provide any additional insight. This is a hotly debated topic and if you have any further knowledge I’d love to hear it.




5 thoughts on “Volkswagen – A Defense

  1. “Was Volkswagen unfairly pressured to create a “magic” engine that was both efficient and extremely environmentally friendly?” I would say yes, but that is the point of regulation to induce progress is it not? I think I would prefer governments to err on the side of being harsh and companies rise to meet this challenge, than for the regulations to be based on what the industry leaders want.


  2. “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” is what I would say to Volkswagen. There are many regulations that the EU has implemented that makes American entrance into their market VERY difficult. For instance: nearly ALL types of GMO crops are banned in the UK, and as we all know, America is able to feed its masses with the GMO market. However, we can’t meet the required standards set by the UK government, so we stay out of that market segment. Similarly, Volkswagen should do the same instead of resorting to deception in order to compete with us. Respect, man, that’s what I want.


  3. I applaud you for crafting a defense for such a seemingly one-sided case. In response to your question on if these regulatory pressures have changed my perception of Volkswagen, I can’t say they did. Volkswagen was not the only car manufacturer tasked with these environmental standards, and the idea that having a high standard is a defense in lying about meeting that standard doesn’t make sense to me.


  4. I agree with Will that it is cool that you attempted to argue against the grain on this one. Despite the evidence you gave I have to agree that my perception of Volkswagen has not changed. Everyone was under the pressure of the rules and Volkswagen cracked under this pressure while others did not. You have to play by the rules of the game and find creative and innovative ways to make it work. Cheating is not the answer.


    1. As much as I love Volkswagen’s products, I would have to agree with @shs020 and @wmo001. Volkswagen was doing this purely to get ahead of its competitors by cheating the system. Sure, the EU has created more strict regulations, but this is an opportunity for Volkswagen to up its standards and be a company that supports the EU and the environment. Instead Volkswagen selfishly took advantage of the industry. In a way, the counter argument you’ve presented almost makes Volkswagen look worse because every other company in the industry also had to comply.


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