21 Jul 2016

Accelerated Change…VW

“Keep breathing.” Advice spoken by Castaway Tom Hanks when he finally made it back home, off the remote, uncharted island. You must keep breathing another day. Even when you don’t know what the future holds for you.

Don’t give up. Make a little plan and keep breathing.

This is what VW leadership must be shouting out loud every day. Keep breathing.

Check the headlines (courtesy of the trade publication Automotive News) for just three days in July, 2016. Time to play Wheel of Fortune and pick one…!

Hope it’s not the one that kills them. After all, any one of these could spell the end for VW in North America. Let’s get spinning.

  • “VW readies restitution for frustrated US dealers”
  • “VW seeks settlement with Canadian diesel owners”
  • “VW sets aside another $2.4 Billion for diesel scandal costs”
  • “VW emissions-rigging claims reach back further”
  • “VW execs covered up diesel cheating, state lawsuits allege”
  • “VW done with diesel push in U.S., exec says”

Bingo. There’s our winner.

VW’s top U.S. official, Hinrich Woebcken, the CEO of Volkswagen Group of America has kinda mentioned in quiet tones that after a decade of attempting to position diesel engines as the cornerstone of the VW car promotions, they will no longer try to salvage the CLEAN DIESEL branding as a core element of the VW sales campaign. Insert your own joke here.

I am taken back to the day that VW allowed me to test drive their new “Clean Diesel” Jetta upon introduction. It was a warm and sunny day in Santa Monica and we were allowed the hills of Malibu to form our opinions. It was impossible to come away unimpressed. Outstanding torque. Quick out of the fabulous turns that snaked along the ridges above the deep blue Pacific. Great day. Heck, the engineers probably turned OFF all the emission controls for these few cars being driven by reporters. Who knows? The TDI’s were really full of life and claimed some good mileage numbers. Forget that diesel fuel back then cost a dollar more than regular. This is German engineering at its best!

But I am not known for following the script. Repeating the press release babble to the land of Happy Happy. So back then I checked on the cost of replacing the particulate trap on these new TDI powertrains. About $800 or more and this will come due around 70,000 miles depending how you drive. Hope that expense is budgeted into your overall costs. Probably not. Probably never mentioned. I would bet it is not even shown in the maintenance guide…but I must say I have not looked myself.

Fast forward: August 15, 2015

Our radio show #794 is titled “Are We Now in the Golden Age of Diesel Power?”  Needless to say our guest agreed that we were. Allen Schaeffer of the Diesel Technology Forum is a very kind man who has been on Drivers Talk at least 3 times over our 17 seasons. How were we to know what would happen to VW 30 days later?

Well, as luck would have it…I had a small reminder just 5 days before they announced the emissions cheating. My neighbor told me she had quickly dumped her Jetta TDI when the engine light came on after only 40,000 stop-and-go city miles. The CLEAN DIESEL had prematurely clogged the particulate filter.

Her VW service advisor light-heartedly quipped “time to sell the car!” Wise words that she followed precisely. Reversed out of the service lane and drove straight across the street and bought a new Mini. Done with VW.

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