VW’s Former CEO Charged in Germany Over Diesel Rigging(bloomberg.com)
So it wasn't the rogue engineers after all? Colour me surprised!
German regulators are ALL IN on cracking down diesel gate once for all. It hurts the German auto manufacturing reputation big time. And we now know it's probably an industry wide practice extends beyond VW.
Not sure if this other scandal has a name yet, but it's basically a combined diesel+petrolgate, and certainly involves more than just VW: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/apr/05/bmw-daimler...
"Between 2006 and 2014, the commission suspects that the “circle of five” carmakers ... colluded to limit, delay or avoid the introduction of selective catalytic reduction systems (SCRs) and “Otto” particle filters."
Not only that, it caused people to die. Diesel emissions are one of the most dangerous kinds of emissions from a public health perspective, especially in populated areas. Because of this emissions testing fraud diesel emissions pollution was worse in many major cities than it would have otherwise been, and the result has been unquestionably a vast loss of life (DALYs, if you prefer), no different than if someone had poisoned a water supply or sold tainted food. But because it has been so diffuse that aspect hasn't gotten quite the attention it deserves.
And of course not just German industry: “ICCT and ADAC showed the biggest deviations from Volvo, Renault, Jeep, Hyundai, Citroën and Fiat.“
I would hope VW puts into production some of their claimed Year 2020 EV models, if so, they will have restored my faith in the company.
Are the other car manufacturers going to be held to account as well?
>I would hope VW puts into production some of their claimed Year 2020 EV models, if so, they will have restored my faith in the company.
As someone who already owned a couple cars out of the Volkswagen brands, currently is seeing them still very critical but following their news closely I am sure they will do. The first ID model will maybe delayed, maybe not better than a Tesla in many points, but I see VW is going full in to EVs and this is something that would never happened so fast if there wasn’t this Dieselgate story. The other german car manufactors are way more conservative with their transition and VW will push a So this is maybe the happy end of all this.
The "requirement" for a fleet average of 95g of CO2/km in the EU is inevitably pushing many manufacturers to double-down on full EVs, as provided you can sell enough they can have a dramatic effect on the fleet average. (It's a requirement insofar as there are fines for being over, but there's no other consequences in the short-term.)
No they will not. You can't imagine the sunken cost fallacy around the diesel. Careers, factory and towns where build around this.
They can not grow internak competition against it without sabotage from those who built this.
I have a hard time having faith in any auto manufacturer whose EV initiatives are compelled by regulatory interests. Tesla is the only automaker whose dabbling in EVs isn't for the most part motivated by meeting regulatory compliance.
Don't Tesla sell co2 emission credits to other companies ? I would be surprised if the company doesn't owe its continued existence to these credits.
Here's the breakdown: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4243459-evolution-teslas-re...
It's only a small portion of their revenue overall and they operate on razor thin margins so it just might be keeping them afloat.
The best thing about this scandal is that (at least for now) all new VW cars have 6 years of warranty/72k miles. Such a great deal, couldn't say no to that.
Here in Australia they have 5 year unlimited km warranty.
The engine control systems were from Bosch, also german, so other car manufacturers that also used Bosch for the engine/fuel injection/emissions control subsystem may have also made use of the "test conditions" bypass.
I don't know about the rest of the world, but in Southern Africa, VW's service is absolutely terrible.
The cars themselves are not bad, but the service centres are downright dishonest and very unhelpful. So, for me at least, the real reputation problem is their attitude towards the customer.
So of all of the modern generation of passenger car diesels we're there any that achieved what they were supposed to? If Mercedes and VW were both cheating, who else made that type of diesel? BMW? The US never seemed to see many passenger vehicles of that type.
> It hurts the German auto manufacturing reputation big time.
Does it? US sales figures don't reflect that claim. They'll be back to their 400,000+/y US sales rate in the next year or two. The hit after 2015 was modest, never going below 300,000.
According to the article
> While the actions of some of the men dates to 2006, Winterkorn was informed about the scam in May 2014, according to prosecutors. Six months later, he condoned a “useless” update of the vehicles’ computer software to help further veil the scam.
So, from 2006-2014 it was rogue engineers and then the CEO took actions to cover it up?
Seems similar to many scandals throughout history, like Watergate where Nixon didn’t direct the burglary but did direct actions to cover it up.
The "rogue engineer" they presented wasn't just an engineer, but the head of the entire division at VW.
The entire "rogue engineer" meme is ridiculous, and this person is absolutely not innocent.
I know the sort of instructions you get to become a rogue engineer. I want x achieved by date y. I do not care how you do it, I don't even want to know that. But unless you manage that let nobody come back alive.
What stunned me was that the German legal system is going after the managers who made the decisions, not the engineers who implemented them (undoubtedly under duress).
In any other country -- and especially UK/USA -- I'd expect to have seen a bunch of engineers forced into plea-bargain deals an a bunch of managers "retiring" to Monaco.
The "rogue engineer" excuse was always empty. If a rogue engineer put the cheat into the design and it made it thru production, what it strongly implies is your design verification process is broken.
Maybe a little bit of that too.
I'm surprised that managers are actually being held to account in Germany now. There initially was quite a bit of resistance to doing so; the government seemed eager to believe the obviously bogus claim that it was just a few rogue engineers perpetrating this crime.
This cheating literally cost thousands of lives, so I'd say some time in prison is perfectly fair. Fines are useless because it is not the executives who pay.
> There initially was quite a bit of resistance to doing so
I don't know why this impression is so widespread. The prosecutor's office started investigations immediately, there have been quite a few raids in offices and private homes over all this time, yet, online commenters always claim that Germany wouldn't prosecute (or would not prosecute managers).
Heard someone saying "What took so long?" in my office.
I pointed out that the Enron scandal events started in the 90s, started making news in 2001, and Skilling was sentenced in 2006.
The wheels of justice grind slowly.
There's a difference though - in the US those wheels never really grind, so, I was assuming nothing would ever come from this... Apparently Germany actually likes justice and laws though?
Jeffrey Skilling in fact served 12 years in federal prison. The wheels did grind eventually.
And how many people who have done worse have received similar punishments since?
Not sure what you are talking about, the US jailed a VW executive in 2017 already .
The wheels of justice grind slowly, but mince very finely.
When people are Outraged(TM) and they want someone's (metaphorical) head on a platter Now(TM), not after going through all those boring technicalities that come with the outdated concept known as due process.
(in case it's not, the /s should be obvious)
The German government owns 25% of VW. It is reasonable to suggest they wouldn't want to do a real investigation and bring charges as doing so directly hurts their best interest. It is even reasonable to suggest that the immediate investigations would have been called off if the German government felt they could get away with it, but public pressure has forced this.
Of course reasonable doesn't mean it is the truth. I have no idea what the truth is, but the fears are reasonable.
> The German government owns 25% of VW.
That’s not quite correct. The shares are owned by the state of Niedersachsen, not the federal government. And they don’t own 25%. They own 11.8%, though they have 20% of the voting rights.
I stand corrected.
Sure, German prosecutors regularly get dissuaded from investigating a crime, because the government said so.
Oh, and public pressure just made the politicians stop. On the other hand public pressure can never stop copyright reform because politicians clearly don't care about the voters.
Maybe you should readjust your mental image of Germany.
Maybe you need to readjust your image of what happens. If it isn't for the vigilance of the people all of the above can happen. They happen in other countries. Corruption of those in powers is a constant in the world, Germany is doing okay now, but it just takes one blink and things can go bad - as they have in many other countries throughout history.
Yep, politics is the key contribution to our intellectual dark ages.
German prosecutors are not independent but have to follow the authority of the ministry of justice. So in principle, politicians can stop the prosecutors. They would rarely do so as that would be the bigger scandal in the end.
Analogous to Samsung’s relationship with SK and the feet dragging over reproductive health hazards that went unreported in certain photoresists banned in the west.
Not sure what made anybody think otherwise. There are strict laws such that any owners or upper management (CEO) if responsible for criminal offenses will be privately fined. That means their own fortunes are at risk here. This isn't the US. VW was already fined. They're done. Now Winterkorn and the others are being charged and any fines demanded by the court will be paid from their private fortunes. Also, there will be jail time and fines involved if they're found guilty.
> Not sure what made anybody think otherwise
Maybe a lifetime of seeing governments fail to enforce laws against the rich?
The US is not done with VW. The SEC has just filed a lawsuit against VW for lying to investors.
Which is funny because I don't see the SEC holding any American company or executive accountable for all the shit that they pull. Anyway, I was talking about Germany.
> the government seemed eager to believe the obviously bogus claim that it was just a few rogue engineers perpetrating this crime.
The legislative is not the executive is not the judicial. Don't throw the whole government into one basket.
Don't even throw the whole of a single branch of government into one basket.
There's a lot of independent actors and parties involved.
How did it cost thousands of lives?
It's extrapolation based on the effects of that type of pollution and the amount of pollution.
It's not wrong but it's not telling the whole truth either. More rigorous metrics like YPLL would be better. A 20yo that drops dead is different from an elderly person that dies of lung issues a few years before cancer would have got them and more meaningful metrics attempt to capture this. "Deaths" is just a number and it doesn't tell you much. Age adjusted metrics don't make for bolt headlines or effective emotional appeals so it's understandable why nobody uses them.
Yeah, that's what really irks me about people making direct death comparisons over air pollution, especially when the QoL factor is excuse enough. Calculating the decrease in life expectancy of at-risk patients and then somehow suming them up is much more honest than implying the death of an elderly lung cancer patient a month early is a life destroyed by pollution.
This conversation is a lot less abstract if you know someone with COPD or severe asthma. The condition kills them but the pollution pulls the trigger.
We probably should have all the major execs sitting on death row for the deaths "caused" by leaded fuel belching out of cars with no emissions controls at all.
In places where diesel isn't placed on a pedestal to suppress gasoline usage, air quality is far better than it was 40 years ago.
For those that did not know, YPLL=Years of Potential Life Lost. Commonly used when estimating pollution impacts.
The NY Times published an article in 2015 that asked a few public health experts to estimate the loss of life in the US due to the fraud.
An MIT study claims over 1,200 premature deaths in Europe due to the fraud. 
Excess diesel exhaust particles, multiplied by liters of fuel flowing through the cars over the years. (Edit:) The cars were allowed to emit a certain amount of dangerous substances, causing X amounts of deaths per year. Instead they in reality emitted a larger amount, and caused X + Y deaths per year.
So VW traded Y number of deaths for extra marketshare and profit.
Non-scientific alarmism belongs on Reddit. Or bring a study/some math.
Now I'm really curious what is unscientific about my little explanation?
'literally cost thousands of lives' < How so?
Manager: "Do this on time and under budget or you're fired"
Engineer: "The only way to do that is to..."
Manager interrupts: "I don't care about the details. You said it could be done"
Engineer (silently): "Ok well I guess I'll go to jail or see my family fall on hard times"
In this case Engineer is played by the head of the division for VW.
As a former owner of 2 TDI dirty diesels that lost money on the resale due to these issues I personally feel VW has not done enough to make it right with the customers impacted.
Prior to the two diesel's I had owned 4 other Audi's over 15 years.
I test drove a 3.0L TDI and listened to the "green" propaganda (remember their across NA clean diesel tour?) and that is what was the decision makers to purchase.
I then find out the vehicle was not nearly as green as stated; and actually worse than a gasoline version. As the father of two young kids and someone who worries about how we treat our planet this was concerning to me. So I immediately got the "fix" performed when approved. I could not sell the vehicle while a "fix" was pending.
That fix that VW came up with has dropped heavy city (stop and go) driving from >24 mpg to under 10! Also 4 mpg on the highway was lost; as well as making the vehicle drive sluggish and lethargic compared to "dirty days".
My vehicles plummeted from >$30K resale value to being under $15K within 6 months after the "fix" was rolled out. VW paid me $6K in restitution.
Through the entire process VW, who is guilty, was in the power position dictating what they would and would not to solve the problem. It was not handled well. They got off very easy.
I now hope the entire management team involved gets significant criminal charges. It was massive in scope. It impacted our planet negatively. I also feel they should be banned, personally, from ever being in a position to make such decisions again.
I for one will never purchase another vehicle from VW/Audi group. They do not stand behind their products nor look after customers. What they did was a very serious crime and they can never be trusted again.
I know several people who had diesel VWs and let VW buy them back for almost the same price they paid for them two years earlier. Why didn't you do that?
VW did a bad thing, but the owners did not get screwed. In fact, the non-owners got screwed worse because we had to breathe the same fumes as the owners but we didn't get a free car for two years.
Only Gen-1 cars had the buy-back as they could not be fixed with software.
Gen-2 cars they came up with a way to reprogram them to get to pass; but as I mentioned it comes with a huge impact of mileage and performance. Us gen-2 owners got about 10% of the vehicle purchase price to make up for the loss of resale value as the vehicles are not what was advertised or nearly as desirable.
And I agree fully with you that they screwed everyone living on this planet the worst.
>I know several people who had diesel VWs and let VW buy them back for almost the same price they paid for them two years earlier. Why didn't you do that?
Parent made the wrong choices. I can tell because they talked about using the car in the city. It's the wrong vehicle for city driving. FWIW I bought a 2012 VW Golf TDI for around $25k out the door. Drove almost 200k mi before it was bought back, received $18.5k or so back on it from VW, Bosch payments and the initial 'we're sorry package'. It was my second TDI after a 98 Jetta TDI. There was simply no other competition on the market for efficient long distance highway travel, which is what I used it for... and for people that asked me about its mileage, I would tell them... it only makes sense if you drive highways for at least a half hour each day. I was personally responsible for 2 Golf TDI's, a Passat TDI, and a A3 TDI being purchased by friends and family. All but one were bought back for values that were over market. The one that wasn't was because he sold it before the scandal broke.
So no, I don't understand the butthurt on lost value. It lost value because that's what vehicles do after a few years (or even after you drive them off the lot), not because of the scandal. You can speculate all you want, but the fact was once the buyback happened you had three options to replace the car left in the market segment. 1. A pre-2007 Benz or VW that overnight became impossible to purchase 2. A 2016 'fixed' TDI that had all the issues of the DPF. 3. One of the few Chevy Cruze diesels that were ludicrously overpriced and had poor option choice (no hatchback and standard trans: did you not want to capture some of VW's market?)
I would still very much expect that even in their dirty state, TDI's put out far less carbon emissions than gas vehicles do. NOX emissions, while a problem are less of a concern for long distance rural trips. Had I done it in a gas car I'm quite certain the longterm effect would be worse, even moreso if I flew in a jet for those trips.
And yeah, absolutely charge the people involved for covering up the testing. They are responsible not just for the pollution they caused while the cars were produced, but for the future pollution caused by the void of more efficient small vehicles that electric isn't ready to fill yet (outside of burbs). I'm pro electric, it just wouldn't work for my use case. For example, I tell people with a 5mi commute to a train station to buy old Nissan Leafs, because it's ideal for their use case. It doesn't make sense owning a diesel for that because they soot up and have issues when they aren't run enough.
It depends on the country they are in. They were not so generous here in Germany, cause our government still protects VW. Prosecutors have none of it, but that takes time and so far they don't really feel the heat.
I would assume it also depends on the emissions and fuel regulations in the country. The US has always had shitty diesel fuel at the pumps and it wasn't until around 10 years ago that you ultra-low sulfur diesel was ubiquitous everywhere. The 500ppm low sulfur diesel would screw up the catalysts. So the US answer was always to de-tune the vehicles, Germany had better configurations due to what I assume were higher fuel quality standards and less stringent emissions. Oh, I found a source confirming my suspicion: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/58733... check page 16 for an overview.
> As a former owner of 2 TDI dirty diesels
Sounds like you enjoyed your diesel hot rods for a good long while. You really should consider foregoing your martyrdom at some point; the well of sympathy for you isn't bottomless. Some of us can recall the years of self righteous VW owners lecturing the world about their little miracle cars.
You bought into a fraud. An honorable person finds a little shame in that, even when they can claim innocence.
> An honorable person finds a little shame in that, even when they can claim innocence.
... what? So, if someone falls for a pyramid scheme they should be ashamed of themselves? If someone gets tricked by a phone scam they should be ashamed?
Even in a sea of "you are always at fault!" bad takes, this has to be one of the worst. Victims should never feel shame that others abused them/their trust.
> So, if someone falls for a pyramid scheme they should be ashamed of themselves?
A little, yes.
Detecting 'too good to be true' is an important aspect of judgement. Blithely inculcating every claim when it aligns with self interest is at the root of many evils.
You can see it in the post; the test drive sold it. This isn't an anomaly. VW buyers cite that same observation over and over. They liked the performance; they were buying performance.
When some yob brings a gas powered V8 pony car home from the dealer we're all granted permission to sneer at the selfish fool. Yet somehow the millions of VW buyers that learned about the kick in the pants product with the respectable badge are all mysteriously exempt and entitled to absolution.
Not from me.
The diesel emissions revelations make me put less faith in the argument, "There is no way so many people could keep shenanigans so great secret so long."
The fact we managed to invent, create, and detonate nuclear weapons without anyone finding out is why I believe secrets can be kept.
There were quite a few scientists feeding information to the USSR, some under the belief no one nation should have this power. Nuclear weapons weren't that secret.
The USSR was still technically an ally when the first were dropped. It would be interesting if Japan or Germany was in the know (and they also likely were, just musing)
They were only allies of convenience and everyone knew that. They were allied to Hitler up until he invaded them.
Interesting point, thanks.
Can someone provide some context for:
"a “useless” update of the vehicles’ computer software to help further veil the scam."
I did not hear about this part of dieselgate.
I was leasing one at the time and remember getting the notice to take it in to the dealership for a voluntary update.
I would hope that their wealth was confiscated. Years in a minimum security prison is certainly punishment but if you want to strike fear into CEOs around the world, make an example where you force the convicted CEO to live on only a couple hundred thousand dollars a year with no savings, trust funds, or other sources of wealth.
I would LOVE to live on a couple hundred thousand dollars a year.
I know, but if you are used to having millions in the bank and living at that level, having to do your own shopping? make your own beds? How about using the same room where you eat dinner to host your cocktail parties? Driving yourself places, flying coach everywhere. Losing your memberships in the various athletic clubs and private clubs. When you compare the burn rate (or expenditures) of someone who goes through a million dollars a year (easy to do if you're a point one percenter), the things you have to give up to fit that into a 200K/year budget (call it 130K after taxes) means giving up a lot of stuff. That is super painful and an excellent punishment.
It's not "super painful" or "an excellent punishment". What you're describing as privations are unattainable luxuries for the majority of the population, not only of the World, but of the wealthiest nations too.
The median _gross_ income in the UK is £22k ($29k USD).
You must be incredibly out of touch to perceive something at the level of "giving up private club membership" to be suitable punishment for such abject disregard for the environment and public health.
I don't think I'm communicating. From the perspective of the wealthy, those are quite painful. Not from the perspective of the middle class, and certainly not from the perspective of someone struggling to get by.
I recently shopped for a 5 door hatchback. There are VW TDI's all over Utah. My understanding, from sales people, is that VW bought many of them back, "fixed" them, and put them back on the used market.
Can anyone give me insight into the fixes they have applied?
If the cars were cheating to defeat IM tests, wouldn't making them not cheat make them fail (or nearly fail) IM tests? Are these cars likely to fail the tests as they age?
Did VW actually fix the IM problem instead of using the software to defeat the tests? If so, it seems like the fix wasn't all that hard and it might have been easier to fix them than to cheat in the first place.
There's a tradeoff in these (many? most? all?) diesel engines between better emissions performance and better mileage. The cheat was that the software would tune the engine for mileage normally, except when it detected that it was being tested it would tune the engine for lower emissions. The fix is to lock them into the low-emissions mode.
My rough understanding from reading the discussions at the time is that they can pull the engine into a performance range that passes the emissions test, but that range is 1) less horsepower, fewer lb-ft of torque and 2) worse fuel economy. Diesel as a technology suffers from more NOx production than gasoline because the increased compression forces it to run lean rather than at stoichiometric ratios. So, basically they tell the injection software to run in emissions test mode all the time and it's "fixed" but you're not going to get any of the other claimed numbers.
There's an episode on this on Dirty Money (Netflix), which might answer your question. IIRC, "fixing" it would impact performance/fuel economy.
I swear that Automotive Industry has to be one of the dirties. Is there a way to estimate the damage this practices have done to the Earth?
..damage to the inhabitants of earth. These are crimes against humanity, done with the purpose of gaining wealth. The fact that Germany goes after the guys on top is reassuring, and somehow restores my faith in society. Go EU!
This is both good and bad news. Everyone benefits from greater transparency, and for once, a high ranking official being charged is refreshing.
But it also raises the question of whether a person acting on behalf of a company is chargeable, as typically, the company is the legal entity that the law targets. How can individuals be protected from legal failings of a corporation?
I had to think whether this all wasn't just revenge of Piëch family (Porsche heirs) against Winterkorn who managed to defeat Ferdinand Piëch in an internal power struggle a few years ago...
This actually crossed my mind too
This is quite hilarious compared to the actual deaths caused by Boeing MCAS. Nevertheless it is deserved.
Next hilarious bit is that this comment is being downvoted (after ~1 minute of having been posted) :) If you downvote, please have just the small bit of courage to state in a followup comment why you disagree. The (at the moment two²) downvoters of course don't have this courage.
² being updated
I haven't voted. I guess people wonder what does the charge have to do with the victims of the Boeing crash, why there is a comparison, why that is hilarious, and whether your comment adds to any meaningful discussion.
Since this is (/appears to be) a community of people who connect more than just 2 dots, it is quite straining to me to explain what i mean.
The point is that VW (and other car manufacturers) are being charged for hypothetically happening deaths due to pollution. There is statistical evidence of this, but the gross result is open to discussion and no serious scientist will agree on a real number, especially that the probably larger cause of statistical death in the long run is caused by fine-grain emissions, which are independent of the engine itself. The really lethal emissions known as of today are caused by fine-grained dust, which is emitted by all cars, the more power, the more dust (i.e. Tesla cars). This is well known (rubber).
Opposed to this there is evidence in form of >200 deceased people in less than 7 months, caused by actual negligence of Boeing adminstration/engineers. This has not lead to any legal repercussions, it will probably just result in "we improved MCAS, we're safe again".
Volkswagen's emissions scandal began ~4 years ago. I'm certain Boeing will face investigation in due time.
It's ironic you implied HN'ers are incapable of connecting more than two dots, then proceeded to rant about there being more than two dots between pollution and death...
I'd say it boils down to a question of intent. In the case of Boeing, you have a complicated system whose engineering intricacies make it exceedingly difficult for anyone to anticipate all possible failure modes. In the case of VW you have execs trying to make an extra buck off of knowingly pumping an excess of pollution into the atmosphere. The first seems negligent at most, the second seems malicious.
The Boeing stuff just happened. It started to be big news just over a month ago. The VW stuff happened 4 years ago and the legal stuff is still unfolding. The comparison is ridiculous, and calling it hilarious is tone deaf.
Haven’t voted but rough estimates of deaths by dieselgate are a lot higher than the couple of hundred in the plane crashes. Further, thousands that didn’t die from particle exhausts in recent years were still affected negatively by it.
Let's throw some arse in jail!
Wonderful! The planet is saved now.
Not (Wov), but (VW)... (Edit:) Today I learned the stock symbol of Volkswagen.
He was referring to the stock name.
Wov is the ticker symbol.
No way this would happen in the USA (I guess time will tell if I'm wrong).
Yeah... about that: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/09/business/volkswagen-diese...
I forgot to take into account that it was a foreign company...