Thursday 29 September 2016

Comment: Volkswagen's betrayal screams loudest in sad voices and emails of owners

Published 30/09/2015 | 02:30

Dermott Jewell of the Consumers' Association
Dermott Jewell of the Consumers' Association

It is in the voices on the phone and in the tone and timbre of the emails that the human impact of the Volkswagen scandal has manifested itself most to me this past week.

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The hurt and bewilderment have percolated from the simple questions of car owners to the perturbance of those who work or have worked with the brand in one capacity or another.

Owners, in particular, cannot fathom how the brand they have known and respected ('I love my Golf') could be so cynical. They are aghast at the breach of trust in the US.

The word they use most often is 'betrayal'.

It is used a lot too by those who have worked in the business unaware of the scam.

They have the added burden of sometimes being caught in the sights of the trigger-happy salvos of blame.

As of now our prime concern has to be for those who own cars that may be affected. They are the people whose trust in the brand was such they had no qualms about paying thousands of euro for the bona fides of driving a car with a badge from the Volkswagen Group.

They must be protected at all costs. They are the innocents, the potential losers in a saga where share-price news and cloudy comment predominate.

They are the ones worried every day about the re-sale value of their car. They are the ones asking where to turn next.

If this were anything other than motoring there would, rightly, be a national group of some sorts or other established by now, clamouring for action and recognition.

Dermot Jewell of the Consumers Association is to be applauded for telling people to register their concerns with the newly-formed government agency.

Apart from him, there has been a vacuum. We have, until now at least, lacked focus, leadership and, above all, reassurance that come what may, they will be taken care of. Thankfully, there is some clarification coming. It is to be welcomed and needs to keep coming.

I'll leave it at that for now because words run out of steam against the scale of what has transpired.

As of now there is little we can do other than expect and get openness and frankness. Anything less will add insult to injury.

But there is plenty we can do about something that is indirectly linked to the controversy: the way cars are tested for fuel consumption and emission figures.

The Volkswagen affair has, by the scope of its impact, renewed focus on the whole area.

The crucial difference, of course, is that the US scam had to do with NOx emissions. What we also need to address is how CO2 emissions (a corollary of fuel consumption) are calculated.

Those who have advocated fundamental change in the current testing system point to the vast difference between claimed and real-world figures. Little has been done for a long time but maybe now there will be a spark of initiative. It is essential that people have faith in the figures put before them.

As you know, Europe's tests are governed by the New European Driving Cycle. New? It was developed in the 1970s, and got its last meaningful revision in 1997 - nearly 20 years ago.

It's ridiculously out of date.

If anything at all is to come from the VW scandal this has to be at the top of the list.

Accountability and transparency are essential. It is the only way to hold and re-establish trust, a commodity in scant supply generally at the moment.

Indo Motoring

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