The VW Scandal Continues

By now, you have probably heard about the Volkswagen scandal, but in case you haven’t, here are a few things you should know about it. The German automaker, Volkswagen, has admitted to using software in order to evade emissions standards in more than 482,000 of their diesel vehicles in the United States. This enabled the VW cars to emit up to 40 times more pollution than what is permitted by the U.S. Clean Air Act. Unlike most recalls, Volkswagen was completely aware of this and continued to lie.

It wasn’t until the International Council on Clean Transportation, also known as ICCT, performed an independent on-the-road emission tests on several of the Volkswagen vehicles. While testing, the emission performances of several Volkswagen vehicles were much worse than expected and after further testing, they were able to confirm the high emission levels of their diesel vehicles. Now Volkswagen is facing several charges and are losing billions in legal fees and sales.

The Health Risks Of Volkswagen’s Emission Cheating Vehicles

In a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the Volkswagen emissions scandal has directly caused 60 premature deaths and cost hundreds of millions of dollars in health care treatments and other costs. Calculations by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University state that about 60 Americans will die 10 to 20 years prematurely because of this breach in emission standards and that 140 more premature deaths will occur if the diesel vehicles are not recalled.

In addition, the excess in air pollution will also contribute directly to 31 cases of chronic bronchitis and 34 hospital admissions for lung and heart problems. This will lead to around 120,000 minor restricted activity days, including work absences, and about 210,000 lower-respiratory symptom days. Researchers have also concluded that the excess in vehicle emissions will lead to $450 million in health and social costs.

Despite this research, Volkswagen fails to acknowledge that their emission cheating cars have directly caused health problems or deaths. Instead, they Volkswagen states “General allegations regarding links between NOx [nitrogen oxide] emissions from these affected vehicles and specific health effects are unverified. We have received no confirmed reports that emissions from such vehicles may cause any actual health problem”.

An Alternative Punishment For Volkswagen

The CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, has joined with several other executives and investors to request a different kind of punishment for VW. Inside an open letter to the California Air Resource Board, they had suggested abandoning the idea of a recall and refitting the diesel cars since it was unlikely that car owners would willingly give up the extra power and acceleration. That aside, the number of diesel VWs in America is actually quite small anyway.

The green company executives instead believe that regulators should push VW into accelerating their development on their hybrid and fully electronic vehicles and building production plants in the United States. These investments would cost about the same as the proposed fine, but would better benefit Americans by providing jobs and would help them salvage their reputation as a green company.

Though Musk’s suggestions make a lot of sense business wise, the government may not consider it a punitive enough punishment or that it may be close to government meddling too much in business affairs. Volkswagen’s position on the matter isn’t getting much better either. However, with most of the facts now out there in the public eye, their position can’t get too much worse either. Sales are continuing to slump while both civil and fraud claims continue to pile up..