A look at all that’s rotten in the automobile industry plus some good bits
United States regulators have charged Volkswagen and its former chief executive Martin Winterkorn with defrauding investors during its massive diesel emissions scandal. Ouch!
Car News has written about the UK’s weakness getting justice for diesel car owners, their compensation claims old a vehicle not fit for purpose batted out of the field, unlike North America where sanctions on car companies can be draconian. The UK has a different attitude on consumer rights. As Donny Barker, a reader in Edinburgh, puts it:
“The emissions fixes ruined our well liked Seat Exeo 2.0 diesel. The fixes did not work and we had to get rid of it as it was totally unreliable and becoming worthless. No compensation at all. US customers get cash or new cars. VW – never again!”
There can’t be many people not aware of VW’s transgressions but if so, here’s the skinny: In September 2015 VW installed software on more than 475,000 cars that enabled them to cheat on emissions tests. The software reduced nitrogen oxide emissions when the cars were placed on a test machine but allowed higher emissions and improved engine performance during normal driving.
Once the cat was out of the bag, or more accurately, noxious gases were out of the cat, VW’s US boss, Winterkorn resigned, and the dominoes began to fall in the USA and Germany, but not until VW executives took responsibility while insisting they personally did nothing wrong.
Naming who instructed and approved methods to cheat emissions tests is yet to be determined, but it get a lot harder to claim innocence when the news of the cheating is in the public domain and you continue selling bonds and security investments at inflated prices. That’s asking for the hangman’s noose. The company has paid 20 billion dollars (£15 billion) in fines and civil settlements to date. It has also pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the US and several managers, including Winterkorn, were charged there.
American government legal eagles have it in for VW a second time. The charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) come two years after the German motor giant settled with the US over criminal and civil charges, as the company tried to distance itself from past illegal activity while, it appears, indulging in a second round. (Monkeys forced to breath toxic fumes in VW safety experiments has slipped silently out of public view.)
The SEC accuses Volkswagen of issuing more than 13 billion dollars (£10 billion) in bonds and asset-backed securities in US markets between April 2014 and May 2015, when senior VW executives allegedly knew that more than 500,000 vehicles in the country grossly exceeded legal vehicle emissions limits.
“Volkswagen made false and misleading statements to investors and underwriters about vehicle quality, environmental compliance and the company’s financial standing, which gave VW a financial benefit when it issued securities at more attractive rates for the company. Volkswagen hid its decade-long emissions scheme while it was selling billions of dollars of its bonds to investors at inflated prices,” Stephanie Avakian, co-director, enforcement division, SEC.
VW, ever quick to back a loyal employee until he’s proven guilty, say Winterkorn was not involved in any sales of bonds. “Regrettably, more than two years after Volkswagen entered into landmark, multi-billion-dollar settlements in the United States with the Department of Justice, almost every state and nearly 600,000 consumers, the SEC is now trying to extract more from the company”, announced a VW spokesperson, ignoring the billions robbed off loyal VW car buyers now owning vehicles few want to buy.
VW has been doing its damnest to divert attention from its cheating and fines and resignations by manufacturing a lot of interest in its new-found philosophy in electric cars. The company is legally and morally compelled to reduce its carbon footprint over vehicle life cycles by a minimum of 30%. Pushing that limit hard is China, where VW sell thousands of vehicles. In the end, it’s profits and sales that scare a renegade corporation not public outcry.
The SEC are out for blood. They seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest and civil penalties. It also wants to bar Winterkorn from holding any corporate officer or director positions.
You’ll never see that happening in the UK, not in a Tory Britain.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Japanese vehicle maker Toyota has come up with an ingenious plan to deal with the rise in thieves stealing cars. The firm, which produces the new Corolla at the Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, has patented the design for a fragrance dispenser that – when the vehicle is broken into – can turn into an anti-theft device. It can detect when the vehicle has been accessed by a criminal, and when it does, release a toxic spray of tear gas into the cabin to immobilise the thief. Thieves able to survive their own body gases in a closed car might be impervious to the spray.
I’m beginning to dislike driving at night, glare from oncoming vehicles with modern lighting is the worst offender. Then there’s the car with one headlight point down and the other point up, followed by the selfish sod who veers across your path to park on your side of the street, lights blazing in your face. Eyeglass technology – specs, to you and me – has made it safe to drive at night again, a bit like having “X-ray” vision. The spectacles called ‘ClearVew’, (not prescription) look like Aviator sunspecs but have an orange tinge to them. The specialized lenses tint provide 100% UV protection and blocks glare, blocks blue light, enhances contrast and clarity. Worth checking out with your local optician who might have alternatives, and prescription versions.
I’ve seen many a car driver bollocking a cyclist, and vice versa, and I’ve seen many a driver block a cyclist and vice versa, but I’ve never seen a cyclist battle with a fellow cyclist. In Hackney, London, the other day, and caught on security camera, a passing cyclist kicked another off his bike, who then crashed into a stationary car. The 30-year-old male casualty remains in a critical condition in hospital. Police are still looking for the attacker. Crazy times. Crazy cyclists.