As the ongoing Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal has continued playing itself out, many observers have commented that, when one takes into account the wide-scale nature of corruption in the German auto industry, it doesn’t seem likely that the company will face any real repercussions within Germany itself.
It appears that those musings were correct … as the German Ministry of Transport has now revealed that it will not be fining Volkswagen (at all) for its many years of fraud concerning diesel emissions testing.
The company will be facing fines elsewhere, though — in the US, in particular. It should be remembered here, also, that were it not for the actions of researchers in the US, the company’s fraud would have likely never come to light. (See our article on the EU’s unwillingness to address the issue, even though its own in-house researchers raised flags 5 years ago).
“We now have a situation in which Volkswagen is required to return the cars to a legally compliant condition,” stated German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt. “That is what is appropriate to remedy the damage that’s been done.”
That word “appropriate” always seems to come up in situations like these…. Is that the patronizing way of avoiding taking responsibility for a decision? “It’s what’s appropriate.” As though “what’s appropriate” could be anything other than a personal judgement and decision…. Maybe it’s just a bad translation….
Some German politicians, and presumably citizens as well, aren’t happy about the decision to not pursue fines. A Green Party representative in the Bundestag, and also the head of the parliamentary investigation committee, by the name of Oliver Krischer, was quoted as saying:
“It’s not acceptable that the government doesn’t take any real consequences from the emissions scandal and gives a blank check for tricks and deceptions. It needs to be explained why companies in Germany don’t pay fines. It’s also not okay that European drivers are treated worse than American VW drivers.”
German owners of the affected diesel vehicles will reportedly be receiving a letter detailing the situation, and will be scheduled a time to bring the vehicle in for a “fix.” As a reminder here, American owners of affected vehicles will be receiving up to $10,000 each — as part of the $15.3 billion settlement with the US government.
Owing to this lack of a payout in Germany, the notable German paper Bild published a piece questioning whether that meant that German VW owners were “second class.”
Autoblog provides some more information, noting that, “part of the reason VW might be getting away scot-free in its home market is because of the sheer number of affected vehicles in Germany and the larger European continent. The company only had to compensate owners of 482,000 vehicles in the US — that’s a fraction of the 2 million cheating TDIs on German roads and the 8.5 million in Europe as a whole. Volkswagen’s line, according to one of the company’s critics, is that compensation for those vehicles would crush the company.”
So, in other words, the company is using the same tact that the big banks did in 2008. “If we go down, so do you. If we’re corrupt, so what, you can’t do anything about it.” (Not a direct quote, but might as well be.)
Obviously, such strategies have a limited shelf life, as any student of history will be happy to let you know if you ask them.
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