for the key bits:
So far, so bad. But VW compounded its problems by stalling the regulator for a year, using every available means to challenge the accuracy of the data. On 18 September 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency published a Notice of Violation, and made it official: VW hadn’t just been failing environmental tests, it had been systematically lying about them. Note that all the time these cars had been on sale in the US, VW’s advertising had focused on the environmental credentials of the polluting vehicles. As Ewing argues, ‘Volkswagen doubled down by aggressively promoting its cars as environmentally virtuous. That strategy elevated the emissions cheating from a mere violation of regulations to a gigantic consumer fraud.’ It is a choice that can only be explained as an institutional contempt for the rules – a contempt for the idea that anyone knew better than VW itself.
You would expect this to go down badly with regulators everywhere, and so it proved. Eleven million cars had been fitted with defeat devices, most of them in Europe. Fines and compensation took the company to the brink: five years ago, when Ewing published his book, ‘it was not hard to imagine a worst-case scenario in which the total cost would add up to $50 billion or more. That sum might be enough to force Volkswagen into bankruptcy, endangering the jobs of Volkswagen’s 600,000 workers worldwide, the vast majority of whom had done nothing wrong.’ In the event, the bill by March 2020 was $34.7 billion, with the UK bill of £193 million arriving in 2022. As with the financial crisis, nobody senior went to jail. Oliver Schmidt, an engineering executive, made the mistake of going on holiday to the US, where he was arrested, charged, tried, pled guilty and was sent to prison for seven years. (Schmidt’s sentence was supposed to run until Christmas this year, but he was transferred to prison in Germany and released in January 2021.) Germany does not extradite to the US, so the five other senior executives charged by the US authorities were safe from the Feds. A number of them were tried in Germany, where they were all acquitted. It turned out that the demanding, notoriously micro-managing chief executive of VW, Thomas Winterkorn, had known nothing about the scandal, and hadn’t read a warning memo about it sent to him in May 2014 – which was lucky, because if he had, his subsequent actions would have amounted to fraud, and he would probably have gone to prison. A good day to flake on the paperwork, Herr Winterkorn! But maybe skip the trip to Disneyland, OK?
amazing. dilbert arraigns all of 'humanities' as a discipline because of one limited example of ultra-privileged toffs behaving badly.
but here we have ... the paragon of engineering leadership ... the engineers heading the biggest car company in the world, in the biggest engineering/manufacturing industry in germany, itself the biggest economy in europe ... and they are committing acts of gross malfeasance, fraud, and unethical violations of trust.
surely if all of humanities leadership can be thrown out because of the public school toff rotten apples, this is damning evidence that engineers are not fit to lead society?!? how could this happen? one would think that a VW boss would be at the very apex of the engineering foodchain. and yet.