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Oh Volkswagen, How Could You???


Dear Martin Winterkorn and the rest of the VW team,

Why did you do it?  Why, oh, why did you fit your common-rail TDI diesel engines with cunning devices that cheated during emissions testing?  Did you mothers never tell you that “cheaters never prosper” and that honesty is the best policy? Didn’t you realise that it was just a matter of time before you were busted?

Make no mistake about it, Martin. We like your cars.  We all know how iconic Beetles and Combis are.  The Beetle is the quintessential car that gives everybody a smile and has real personality. Even if practicality dictates that a Beetle can’t be part of our driving life, we love them anyway.  We love the tough Amarok and Touareg, the snazzy Golf and Passat.  We like the practicality of the Caddy and the Transporter.  The fact that the recall affects five million cars worldwide just goes to show how much we like your vehicles.

We also like diesel engines. We like the way that a diesel engine tends to be more forgiving in the hands of a learner driver who’s learning not to stall.  We like the way that diesels have better torque for towing and off-roading.  We also like the way that diesel can be produced from environmentally friendly and sustainable sources like algae and waste oil to make biodiesel.

Surely, if you’ve got designers with the intelligence and skills to come up with an engine that’s smart enough to recognise when it’s being put through lab testing and adjust its emissions readouts, you have the team needed to develop an engine that has lower emissions all the time.  Let’s face it: developing that took a lot of skill and sophistication.  The same skill and sophistication could easily have been applied elsewhere to make your already good cars even better.  So what was the point of cheating?

Now you’ve got the bother and expense of recalling all the affected VWs (and Audis and Skodas) with the engines in question.  And several have been banned for sale here in Australia, which is really bad news for all of us in the automotive industry.  All those lovely Golf hatchbacks, Tiguan SUVs, Passat sedans and wagons, Audi A4 sedans and wagons, Audi A5 coupes, Audi Q5 2.0 TDI SUVs, Skoda Yeti SUVs and Skoda Superb sedans and wagons suspended from sale here Down Under, languishing in car yards instead of being on the roads where they belong.  Anything with a fitted with 1.6 or 2.0-litre EA189 diesel engine, in fact.

The news informs us that a few of your engineers and suppliers spoke up as early as 2011 (or even 2007) warning you not to misuse the technology.  I hope you’ve been nice to them.  You should have listened.

Now you’re stuck with damage control.  You will be able to bounce back from this. Lots of vehicles have bounced back from scandals, from the Ford Pinto fiasco to the Mercedes that rolled over in the Moose Test.  Your cars are certainly good enough. We will buy them again… once you’ve made honest vehicles out of them.

Possibly, you have done the automotive world a service. You have highlighted the fact that driving in a lab test isn’t the same as driving in the real world. Maybe after this, cars will be put through real world tests in real-world conditions so their fuel economy (and emissions) stats will reflect the real thing. Lab testing is like sucking your tummy in when you get out the tape measure: it might make you feel nice inside at first but will leave you feeling horribly squeezed later.  So thanks for highlighting this issue.

Yours sincerely,


PS: VW Owners: More information is available at the VW website  as it becomes available.


  1. peter says:

    has anyone thought that other car makers are doing this as well? I wonder if the team in the US tested other car brands?…look at the inflated fuel usage claims that car brands make and never come anywhere near it in real life!!

    October 29th, 2015 at 7:44 am

  2. Chandana De Silva says:

    I owned the original VW from 1958 and later a newer version in 1974. They were excellent cars.
    However, I will no longer trust ANY attribute of any VW offered by the manufacturer, as the humans behind the Company can no longer be trusted to provide the TRUTH. So much for HONESTY.

    October 29th, 2015 at 9:18 am

  3. Chandana De Silva says:

    I have nothing more to offer t my comments above.

    October 29th, 2015 at 9:19 am

  4. John Aquilina says:

    VW has been caught out. Which other manufacturers will be outed as fudging their engine performance figures?

    Regulators flush with money from VW fines should invest those funds on the equipment and investigators with up to date automotive know-how.

    A simple and most cost effective solution to this whole mess avoiding years of multiple legal actions would be if VW simply replaced EVERY non-compliant car with a brand new compliant car.

    October 29th, 2015 at 9:32 am

  5. Simon McCoy says:

    Hi Megan,

    Please note, the noun for the verb “cheat” is also “cheat”, not “cheater”

    That being the case, the correct saying is “cheats never prosper”, not “cheaters never prosper”.

    Megan’s Reply:

    You are quite right and I applaud you. Serves me right for quoting a primary school playground taunt verbatim!

    October 29th, 2015 at 11:41 am

  6. Wal Pywell says:

    So they cheated… but what is the effect on those cars?
    If the “fix” was left in place (in other words, if the cars met the emission standards all the time) do the cars have less or more power? do they have better or worse economy? is the drivability affected in any way?
    Can you provide any guidance on that issue?

    PS I have a Skoda Octavia diesel and am very pleased with it.

    October 29th, 2015 at 1:25 pm

  7. Kenneth Smith says:

    All internal combustion engines pollute to some degree, but proportionally these VW Diesel cars , but as Lord Bamford, Chairman of JCB, remarked, poluution is by and large proportional to fuel consumption, and these 1.6 and 2 Ltr VW diesel engines are very economical, and unload far less pollutants than the large diesels fitted trucks, buses and heavy plany per litre of fuel burnt, and they are not about to outlaw these engines.

    Perhaps one should look at the new regulations that were introduced without reference to industry, setting emission levels that could not be economically achieved with the technology of the time. VW’s solution merely being a creative way in complying with an unreasonable limit that was arbitrarily set by the American EPA. So VW is forced at great expense to modify non complying diesel engines so they meet the test emissions standards. Since the test is artificial and does not reflect actual usage, should the modified engines pass the test at the cost or poorer fuel consumption abd poorer performance, will the environment really benefit, will there be any winners, oe will everyone be a loser.

    October 29th, 2015 at 3:04 pm

  8. Darren says:

    Pretty much sums up my sentiments exactly, as the owner of a 2007 Golf TDI with 339,000km on the clock (and still running strongly). The only thing that would stop me, funds permitting, from upgrading to another TDI is that they are no longer sold here with a manual transmission.

    October 30th, 2015 at 5:40 pm