Volkswagen – Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory – Julian Eldridge

How we love them, our Golfs, our Polos. Our Passats and our Audis. It seems that since automotive time immemorial, sporting that iconic VW badge on our bonnets made us proud members of the motoring better-off. A fraternity of discerning road users, comfortable in our own little miracle of German engineering. Audi’s Vorsprung Durch Technik (advancement through technology) was even better. Audi was where you rose to after Volkswagen but before Porsche and Mercedes.
The “Peoples Car”, our loveable little Beetle, was first promoted by Adolf Hitler in the 1930’s but instead of perishing by association continued into post-Nazi production in 1948. We’ve placed our car worshiping faith in Volkswagen ever since, so much so that Veedub is now the biggest motor manufacturer on the planet, gobbling up Audi, Seat and other household names on the way.
When emissions grew as an issue it’s no surprise that VW retained our trust. What a shock to then discover that that trust was misplaced. The now infamous ‘defeat device’ installed to cheat emissions tests, and its extensive use by Volkswagen, has rightly scandalised us. But let’s be honest. In order for the market economy to function we need to believe that our corporate masters have, on the whole, our best interests at heart. Whether we like it or not, however, scruples fall well behind the ability to maximise profits on the CV of your successful company director. Further still, deception and misleading product information are institutionalised and made respectable by the advertisers. The marriage of material ambition and corporate expansion is the very stuff of human existence. As Conservatism would have it, there is no alternative.
We shouldn’t therefore be surprised that a big company, even a pillar of industrial excellence such as VW, has been cheating. How soon we’ve forgotten the banks. Sub-prime mortgages, PPI mis-selling, Libor manipulation and the rest. We used to trust them too and are beginning to again, now the advertisers are working their beguiling magic.
In terms of human continuation on the planet the defeat device we need to dismantle isn’t attached to a diesel engine. It’s the one bolted tight to our perception of success and prosperity. Market economics. Vorsprung Durch Nachhaltigkeit. Look it up.

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