Much of the nitty gritty of how and why Autohersteller Volkswagen came to be on everyone’s lips at the moment has been amply discussed in the logs (which you’re advised to catch up on if you’ve been sleeping for the past two weeks). Our focus here is on the ramifications of their “gaming” of the platonic games that are environmental regulations.i To spark the fire of our conversation, we’ll start with an article from “t byfield” over at the Nettime mailing list :
VW claimed that it possessed some magical technology that allowed its diesels to achieve high mileage and low emissions without the need for a urea-based additive — a liquid that, like gasoline or engine oil, requires its own special tank. Compared to diesels made by other manufacturers, VW’s cars were cheaper and less of hassle to operate and maintain, and their resale value remained much higher.
So, right there, VW diesel owners have a pretty ironclad case for what boils down to speculative financial compensation: the difference between what the cars ‘would have been worth’ if this flaw hadn’t been exposed and what they *are* worth — which is zero, if only because no one in their right mind would buy one (and in many cases resale may now be forbidden by law).
The flipside of VW’s software trick is hardware — or, rather, the lack of it. VW can patch the software, but doing so won’t give their diesels the hardware needed to integrate urea additives: not in the engine, not in the fuel system, and not in the body panels. Recalling all those cars to retrofit such a system is almost certainly impossible: it’d be prohibitively expensive *and* far beyond the capability dealers’ repair shops. So those vehicles — 11 million of them and counting — are damaged goods. They will *never* be able to meet environmental regulations. That means either (a) they’ll need to be taken off the road or (b) environmental regulations will need to be rewritten to include a carve-out for VW diesel owners. Setting manufacturer-specific rules like that would be a disastrous precedent with huge political opposition, but to in effect ‘reward’ VW’s systematic malfeasance would be a catastrophe.
To which, a few further points must be made about Volkswagen in general and the EA 189 diesel engine in particular :
- VW/Audi/Skoda/and whatever other VW Group vehicles with this engine aren’t worth zero. And demonstrably so. Talk to any current owner and offer them even $10, infinitely more than $0 to be sure, for the title to their “broken” car. They won’t even turn you down, they’ll just pivot on their heel and walk away, incensed at your brazen insensitivity and pitiful manners. Sure, the vehicles will take a resale ding in the short-term, but short-termin’ boohooin’ knee-jerkers deserve nothing less.
- The resale of VWs ~will not~ be forbidden by law. Not anywhere. Not anytime. Not ever. The sale of a vehicle that was originally sold in a country and legally compliant at that time, and is being resold as a registered and insured vehicle at a later date, has never been illegal and isn’t about to
startbecome so any time soon.
- Repairs ~will not~ be beyond the ability of dealers’ repair shops. The “repairs” will mostly look like ECU re-flashing, which will take all of 10 minutes of shop time.
- The claim that EA 189 engine will *never* be able to meet environmental regulations belies the fact that “repairs” can and will be made. And if they aren’t made, because VW gives the deserving middle finger to the US and their merry band of nazis “just doing their job,” it’s the regulator’s problem, not VW’s, and certainly not the environment’s. So yes, VW’s “systematic malfeasance” is in effect being rewarded, and yes, this will be a catastrophe FOR REGULATORS.ii Not that said same regulator won’t try to paper over this issue and fine VW six ways to Sunday, as if that’ll save them some face and as if they could ever collect on a fine like the $18 BEELLION figure that’s being bandied about.
mircea_popescu: Anyway, VW takes the cake for fighting the insanity of statal overbearing. And the more insane it gets, the more of this will happen, until eventually maintaining even the pretense of “law enforcement” will become ridiculous. But anyway, this is the path : expose the state to millions of unknown cases. Trillions, if at all possible. Let it fuck the dilemma of “do we grandfather or what now!”. Fuck’em. Fascinating that the author manages to go through all that without at any point rising to the very moderate level of awareness that’s included in the observation that “all this retarded pseudo-legalistic bullshit just ate its own tail, and now it’ll have to go. VW shot it in the head, thanks god.”
pete_dushenski: I quite like this angle. The size of the VW legal problem is too obviously too large for derpy bureaucrats with concrete boots to handle. so they really have no choice but to hand-wave the ‘problems’ away. Winterkorn should get Nobel Peace Prize.iii
mircea_popescu: No but seriously. At what point does the idea form that hey, minuscule “pollutants” out of extant cars aren’t the problem. Stop giving so many derps cars ! It’s clearly a square. One edge has been optimized pretty well. Time to do the other one ?
pete_dushenski: Governments are working on exactly that. Municipals on up. “Take your bike to work day.” “National ride the bus day.” This side of the pollution equation is being helped immensely by the crushing student debt that “social scientards” are coming out of school with. Still have to live at home, ride bike, take bus. What choice do they have but make being poor fashionable ? Best thing the post-secondary UStardian system ever did. Reduce pollution. With debt !iv
mircea_popescu: How about make being poor very fucking sad, so they have SOME incentive to stop lying to themselves about it.v
Now if I were in the pants of Matthias Müller,vi VW’s new CEO and Martin Winterkorn’s hastily drafted replacement, I’d pull the chute from the US market altogether. This would not only make legal prosecution a hell of a lot more challenging,vii but it would also serve as a signal to other car manufacturers (who’ve undoubtedly also pulled the same laboratory trick,viii even if they won’t yet admit it) that terrorism cannot and will not be tolerated, whether it’s committed by empty suits in Washington DC or freedom fighters wearing dynamite-filled vests in Baghdad.
This isn’t even an unprecedented move in the industry. Alfa Romeo and Fiat left the US market in the 80’s on account of their abhorrent reliability and the size of the warranty claims that resulted ; it’s said that 99/100 Fiats made a warranty claim. As a result, the two Italians firms left the continent altogether, apparently never to return.ix Just like Peugeot, Renault and Citroen did a generation ago, and more recently, Isuzu and Suzuki. In any event, while the size and scale of the pull-out would be unprecedented, so is this whole shebang.
It’s worth a shot.
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- Though, to be fair, ~all~ government regulations are platonic games because that’s how they treat the world, as if it were all a game to be controlled top-down, as if the earth and the moon and the stars were but pieces on a great galactic chess board and that only pieces of paper and “consensus” could control their movements, all of which is to say that the “environmental” flavour of regulation is in no way unique in this regard. [↩]
- The recall won’t be particularly problematic for VW owners, per se, given that, anecdotally at least, said owners either a) keep their cars for decades, or b) use VW as a stepping stone to finer german automobiles, or c) are burned so badly by the repair costs (mostly electrical gremlins) that they swear off the brand once and for all after their first. What repeat customers ? [↩]
- Or the Economics Prize or the Purple Heart or the Iron Cross or something else equally honourific of his bravery in the field. If nothing else, he’ll be remembered in the logs, which, at this point, are pretty well the closest digital approximation to chiseling names into marble. Well, other than the blockchain. [↩]
- In addition to the maculature mill, digital socialism in the form of derpagram and facefraud pretty much close the loop in terms of killing any and all ambition. Got a “smartphone” ? Check. Yup. The one and only box and you’ve ticked it. That’s it, you’re good to go. Nothing else to strive for. Nothing else to push the boundaries of conformity and conventionality for. No reason to fight for a job, much less a raise, much much much less a management position. Why bother ? The parentbots still dispense food pellets, right ?
And if you think that Pelletsucker Jr. is going to hop aboard the trendtastic “start-up” train and launch a new business that isn’t i) a chumpatron, ii) a bot scam, and/or iii) a generic VC fraud scam, you’re sorely mistaken to the degree and in the precise manner that indicates to me that you’re probably one of those poor suckers who votes in federal elections and maybe even has his car “detailed” a few times a summer. Seriously, you couldn’t be more clueless. [↩]
- And who might do this shaming, you ask, their poor parents who can’t even afford a proper shower ? Uhuh. Imagine that conversation : “Get a haircut and get a job, you lout !” “Shut up dad.” “If I wasn’t worried about a SWAT team busting down my door the second I laid a finger on you, and if I didn’t believe that fathers and sons should just get along like buds at a baseball game, I’d lay a finger on you !” “Fuck off, loser.”
So yea, the dad didn’t discipline the kid when he had a chance, because the dad’s a scared loser who may or may not identify as a “progressive,” and so now his son is in turn a scared loser. And so it goes, leaving each man-shaped pile of fetid meat to internally and externally rot on the sharp rotating spit that is The Dole and to vote for the doliest Doler and whine about how “The Dole crop ain’t comin’ in too good this year because-a dem billionaires, millionaires, and thousandaires who dun got too mucha dat dere personal wealth.” Until one day the dole runs out for real, because money doesn’t grow on trees, and dem dolees realise that they’ve wasted their entire godforsaken lives and that they don’t get a second go ’round. And then they starve. La Fin. [↩]
- Ew. Not like that ! Now had VW dug a little deeper into the Group’s roster of CEOs and pulled up Lamborghini’s Stephan Winkelmann… [↩]
- As Argentina well demonstrated last year. [↩]
- When “Fiat” and “Alfa Romeo” returned to the US market in 2011 and 2015, respectively, they did so under as a sucker on one of the USG’s multifarious and multitudinous tentacles, and one that just so happens to be particularly “industry famous” (which is a bit like “twitter famous” aka “not famous”) for having practically sunk Mercedes-Benz around the turn of the second millennia, and if not quite destroying the tri-star brand financially, coming damn close, and putting a slower-acting poison pill into Merc’s stomach, one that slowly, insidiously, and metastatically metamorphosised their cars from the finest tanks on the road into yet more brittle plastic toys. Yes, like Porsche. [↩]