The dominoes continue to fall as the impact of the Volkswagen emissions scandal deepens. There are now allegations that high-level managers in the company’s research and development department were warned about possible illegal practices, a revelation that came out a day after the company suspended several R&D chiefs until more details about the “defeat device” fiasco become more lucid. Volkswagen has also said it will come up with a plan to retrofit cars affected by this software installation, a cost that could reach in the billions of dollars as 5 million of those affected cars alone are in the U.S. Failing at explanations that are falling short of satisfying the media and consumers alike, Volkswagen has hired a new global head of communications.
And there will still need to be a lot of explaining to do as yesterday Volkswagen and Audi agreed to return “Green Car of the Year” awards bestowed upon their 2009 and 2010 “clean diesel” models. San Luis Obispo-based Green Car Journal rescinded its prizes for the 2009 VW Jetta TDI and 2010 Audi A3 TDI in the wake of Volkswagen's admission that the company had deceived government regulators about the emissions levels of the 2010 Audi winner.
“We only want to win fair and square,” said Audi of America President Scott Keogh in a written statement. Keogh added that the Volkswagen group of brands had won hundreds of awards over the years throughout the company’s history, and says it hopes to win the award “properly” in future years.
Critics of the company, however, are not stopping with any green or environmental awards. They are increasingly demanding that Volkswagen return additional awards the company has recently won, including the prestigious North American Car of the Year and Motor Trend Car of the Year. Volkswagen had swept both of those awards earlier this year with the 2015 Volkswagen Golf and Golf GTI. Motor Trend in particular called out the Golf models for its improved fuel efficiency and fuel economy gains.
But now the knives are out.
“In light of the fact that VW has been cheating the emissions on their vehicles for the past 10 years with their TDI's, Motor Trend should rescind the award for Car of the Year,” said one anonymous reader, with others on the thread agreeing with that sentiment.
Whether or not these calls will crescendo and force Volkswagen to humiliate itself even further by returning even more awards remains to be seen. What is definite, however, is that Volkswagen has larger problems than returning a few shiny plaques and trophies from the lobbies of its corporate offices. The U.S. federal government had reportedly paid $51 million in subsidies for purchases of the Volkswagen and Audi models in question. Across the Atlantic, Spain’s government has demanded Volkswagen’s subsidiary operating in that country return subsidies that had been paid to develop more fuel efficient automobiles.
No matter how sour the public goes on Volkswagen, it will be possible for the company to recover and regain trust. But that process could take years, and in the meantime, the financial penalties the company is confronting will become an even larger hurdle for the world’s largest automaker.
Image credit: OSX
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.