Sunday, October 4, 2015

My Take on Frankfurt and Volkswagen's Diesel Nightmare

Alexander Carabitses

After a long absence, I am back, and boy have I missed a lot!  The first thing that comes into my mind is Volkswagen cheating the emissions tests, but I'll save that for later in the post.  In the meantime, I will deliver on my promise of giving my take on the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show.

The show kicked off as it always does, with the Volkswagen preview night, which is basically a night long event in which every VW Group brand (with the exceptions of Scania and Man Trucks) shows off a new product and touts it like there is no tomorrow.  The following day, every VW brand has an actual press conference for their vehicles, which I highly doubt many people even attend, unless they missed the preview night.  In fact, it was Volkswagen that showed many of the surprise debuts which include:

The Porsche Mission E Concept
(Image credited to and Porsche)

The Audi e-tron Quatro Concept
(Image credited to and Audi)

The 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan
(Image credited to and Volkswagen)

2016 Lamborghini Huracan Spyder
(Image credited to and Lamborghini)

The vehicles themselves are pretty self explanatory as both the Porsche and the Audi are electric cars that are clearly gunning for Tesla, while the Volkswagen Tiguan is a redesigned version of the brand's compact crossover, that will now be offered with a plug-in hybrid model as well; it now rides on the MQB platform. As for the Huracan Spyder, it is exactly what its name implies, and boy does it make for great eye candy!

Three other important debuts included the Hyundai N20 vision Grand Turismo, the Mercedes-Benz IAA Concept, and the 2016 Jaguar F-Pace.  Certainly the most interesting of the three vehicles is the IAA concept, which is actually not named after the auto show, but rather Intelligent Active Aerodynamics.  What's special about this car is that it can change its shape while driving, with an extension sliding out the back of the car, which itself is a plug-in hybrid. The F-Pace is Jaguar's first crossover and is built on the XE's platform, while N20 is meant to launch Hyundai's performance sub-brand "N", which already looks like a disaster ready to strike. 
(Image credited to digital trends and Hyundai)

(Image credited to Jaguar)

(image credited to Mercedes-Benz)

Speaking of disaster's BMW's CEO, Herald Kruger, nearly passed out during the brand's press conference.  Fortunately, his collapse was only due to fatigue and in the end, he was just fine. 

Moving, on if you have never been to the Frankfurt Auto Show (like me), every German brand takes this show very seriously, with displays that take up entire exhibit halls and some of these displays have driving courses in them, so anyone who is interested can ride in a debut vehicle on the spot.  Don't believe me, check out the BMW stand, below:

So what is my overall opinion of the show?  Well, I am in favor many of the debuts and I think that the show keeps getting better and better as the years go on.  Overall, the European auto industry seems to be doing well, despite poor sales the last few years.  However, I was somewhat pissed off at the fact that just about all of the debuts were shown before the show, and I don't mean days before the show, I'm talking months before the show.  The Opel Astra debuted in Frankfurt, but was originally shown this past May, while BMW revealed the new X1, 7-series, and Mini Clubman in June.  I don't understand why automakers continue to do this.  Is it because they feel an internet leak of the car is inevitable or can they just not contain themselves?  Either way, it made the entire auto show pointless for the media, and in reality all they had to do was send a couple of camera men and photographers, along with one person to interview the ocasional executive.  Beyond that, with automakers releasing the press kits for new car introductions months ahead of time, there aren't all that many new products to cover, unless, of course, some media outlets prefer to do videos.

At any rate, I thought it was a great show, but I seriously hope automakers save new vehicle debuts for auto shows from now on.
(Image credited to

Dear Volkswagen, How Could Things Go So Wrong?

Unless you live in a cave, you have surely heard about the latest automotive recall, involving Volkswagens equipped with TDI Clean-Diesel engines.  In case you haven't, here is a brief synopsis.

It all began it was discovered that Volkswagen had been using a cheat software device that reduced nitrous oxide emissions during EPA testing.  During regular during, however, the system would switch off, giving the driver more performance, while emitting more nitrous oxide.  Since the discovery, VW group CEO, Martin Winterkorn, has resigned and the company may have to recall 11 million TDI models.

Of course, I just have to weigh in on this issue.  It doesn't bother me so much that Volkswagen cheated, but more the fact that the EPA didn't make the discovery, rather it was discovered by a group of outside researchers at a university.  This makes me wonder, given how stringent the EPA has made fuel economy and emissions standards in the US (especially on diesels), why didn't they prepare for a way to test for anyone who tried to evade the tests?  It seems like common sense, but then again, the US government has none of that. 

The EPA definitely has to pay a heavy guilt burden in all of this, as does the European government, which, up until recently, has had lowball standards for diesels.  This made cheating an easy decision for Volkswagen, as they certainly did not expect to get caught by researchers at a university.  Now, owners are angry as they are discovering that their cars will depreciate and that unless their vehicles are repaired, they will not be legally registered.  This means that owners are also beginning to file lawsuits against the company, which is also going to have to pay somewhere in the range of 18 billion dollars in fines for violating the Clean Air Act.  

 What I also find interesting is that Volkswagen is receiving bad publicity for cheating on EPA tests, while one year ago, GM was receiving  the same amount of bad publicity for causing the deaths of many in order to save a few cents on an ignition switch.  Let me say that again, VW is receiving the same amount of bad publicity for cheating on emissions tests, as GM did one year ago for indirectly killing people in order to save money on ignition switches.  So apparently cheating on emissions tests is just as big of a deal, if not a bigger deal than killing people, what a joke.

Now, Volkswagen will have even bigger problems than they already had in the US, as the vast majority of the vehicles they sold in this market were diesels.  With brand reputation shattered across the globe, it will be interesting to see how long it will take for Volkswagen to recover from this.  I guess European car companies are not invincible like many people once thought.

Anyway, that is my take on the matter.  Stay tuned because yet another post will be up in the next few days.  For now, thanks for reading and have a good weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alex, nice writing.
    But may I take exception to your comparison between the GM ignition switch issue and the VW emissions cheating. VW's attitude to emissions has the potential to effect many, many people, also indirectly, by delaying the world's response to pollution. They are seeking to perpetuate the myth that modern diesel engines are clean, thus encouraging the unthinking punters to purchase them. The reality is that oil based fuels can never be as clean as solar-based energy and all governments have a responsibility to lead the world out of this mess that we and our forebears have created.
    Never mind ISIS, the self-interested cynicism behind VW, GM, as well as most manufacturers is a crime against humanity (and that's not just my opinion, it's now widely accepted).
    You are right when you suggest that government authorities must regulate and monitor car companies.
    All the best.