VW, Greenwashing, and a Learning Moment

Hello, my name is Jodi (hi, Jodi) and I am the once-proud owner of a 2012 TDI Jetta Sportwagon named “Jetty”.  Prior to that I owned a 1998 TDI Beetle, in beautiful, bright blue, named “Blue Jay” AKA “Beej”. I am sad and I am embarrassed and I am here to be with others like me, who have placed trust poorly.

I am a firm believer in low-sulfur diesel being part of a complete, many-fuel transition period leading us to higher efficiency with controlled particulate emissions, then to exceptional efficiency with zero GHG and zero particulates.  And Volkswagen just peed in my pool.

I am not a market expert, though I am knowledgeable.  I am not someone who gets onto a soapbox and chants for a company to be destroyed when they reveal that they have duped the public in some way.  I am, however, a proponent of tough love, and VW must pay for this dishonesty.  I am fully behind the additional awareness that will come to pass across the entire industry with the intent that nothing like this can happen again.

Background article – Bloomberg

Frankly, emissions should never be tested separately from MPG.  We really need to stop testing single-attributes and start testing with a triple bottom line mentality.  Ideally, we will also start to fold some of the oft-ignored “externalities” into the performance testing and calculations (cost of mining and transporting fuels, costs for remediation of spills, costs for healthcare due to emissions…)

I am one who fully expects restitution as an owner of a VW diesel.   I am a sad, embarrassed Sustainability Leader who now drives around in a car that will be the butt of many jokes, that will be the poster child for greenwashing and for foolish consumers (me being one, I guess).  Though accepting a lie from a trusted source is not really the mark of a fool, though it is painful. I’m not quite sure how VW will repay me for that part of this situation.

So how do I get through this?  I realize, once again, that greenwashing is part of the messy process of learning and understanding greener choices, and what they mean, and how to get there.  We have to embrace the mistakes. We need to do this is a way that does not accept the mistakes or allow them to continue, but in a way that says “face up, learn, fix it, move forward” and then watches for any sliding in our mis-behaving green-child.

VW, you are on notice.  Your allowance is docked and your bedroom door is removed.  We want to trust you, but you will have to win that trust.  You will have to do so in many little ways and big ways over a long, long period of time.  In that process of time and effort you will find and cherish your own value, if it truly exists.  For the moment, I will be looking harder at Ford, and you need to know this.  They are a USA company (though they need to build more cars in the USA).  They have a broad and well-applied green core to their business, though they NEED more e-cars and other high efficiency vehicles.  They did not take a bailout (bravo, Ford) and they have not been cheating anywhere… that we know of… yet.

I, for one, hope I will again take pride in ownership of a VW diesel and then perhaps a VW e-car down the road a piece.  I love your styling and your drivability, but abhor your dishonesty, and I truly hope this was an error that will never be repeated.   I look forward to Fahrvergnügen being honest and once again relatively guilt-free.

VW – let your penance begin. 

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  • That would be an interesting gesture of the EPA, Jodi – instead of bagging $8-10 billion in penalties, request VW in lieu of such penalty to invest that amount +50% into the development of an electric “people’s car.” In the end Volkswagen means People’s Car and they have the engineering strength to achieve the task of a high-performance E-vehicle, when forced to invest. A great opportunity!

    Yes, VW would benefit from that step by strengthening its competitive edge, but wouldn’t we all benefit?

    So VW may even have to change its name into EVW (Elektrische Volkswagen). :-))

    • I really hope we begin to move toward punishments that encourage improvements over punishments that just cause bitterness or that kill vibrant companies. Thanks for your comment!

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