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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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Me and My Jetta: How VW Broke My Heart

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 25, 2015

THE day I went to pick up my new Volkswagen Jetta TDI in March 2009, the salesman had me sit in the driver’s seat while he introduced the car’s various features. The engine was softly idling, and as I reached to shut it off, he told me not to bother. The minimal amount of fuel this car burned — sipped, in the automotive argot — was its great selling point. That, and the almost complete removal of hazardous exhaust that had made earlier diesel vehicles notorious.

This was that new thing in the world, “clean diesel,” using ingenious German technology to keep nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions out of kids’ lungs, and low enough to meet even California’s stringent pollution standards. A committee of jurors, including the executive director of the Sierra Club and the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, had just called it the “Green Car of the Year.” A review in this newspaper described the Jetta TDI, persuasively, as “easy on money, fuel and the planet.”

It was quiet, too. The salesman told me to rev the engine, to hear just how quiet, and I hesitated. I am not …  Read the full story in the New York Times.

4 Responses to “Me and My Jetta: How VW Broke My Heart”

  1. mickmoore said

    Thank you for the NY Times reporting and your personal story about the Volkswagen scandal.

    I have found this company personally to be without morals. We are Americans living in Australia, and had two Audi A4 cars beginning in 2004. Both cars had design-caused transmission failures that had Volkswagen/Audi grudgingly agreeing to a recall program in the USA. The cars in places like Australia (with less consumer protection) were not so covered, even though identical in problems.

    As an engineer however, I have one big unanswered question: When Volkswagen introduced these engines, which were a big leap in operation and environmental friendliness, I have absolutely no doubt that their competitors (Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota, etc) all went out, got these cars, and tore them apart to find out what VW was doing.

    So why has there been no cries of “foul” by the other companies?

    I would opine that this kind of computer trickery is being done by all of them. There is no other explanation.

    Keep digging.

    • I have been discussing that very point with another correspondent. One other possibility: The auto industry is a club and calling out fellow members of the club limits future employment prospects. But I think your conclusion is more likely the correct one.

  2. On the hidden damage from VWGate http://theconversation.com/the-not-so-invisible-damage-from-vw-diesel-cheat-100-million-in-health-costs-48296?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+September+30+2015+-+3518&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+September+30+2015+-+3518+CID_7f15388ce7cdf94ae44755e72c16cf7a&utm_source=campaign_monitor_us&utm_term=The%20not-so-invisible%20damage%20from%20VW%20diesel%20cheat%20100%20million%20in%20health%20costs

  3. I am not at all pleased about what VW has done to deceive us about the cleanness of their diesel here in the US. What about all the other diesel makers worldwide? Is it not true that a large percentage od=f cars sold in Europe are diesel. As far as I know most European makers offer diesel models though I am not sure how many would pass the US emission standards. I owned a diesel Peugeot back in the 70’s and it was a great car, a wagon getting more than 37 miles per gallon in all conditions. They smelled like a diesel though without the black smoke which back them poured out of most buses and trucks. I was using less fuel than almost anything else on the road in those days, so although it polluted, as all cars did, I thought burning less fuel, requiring less disposing stuff maintenance, I was doing a little less harm to the environment.
    In spite of the deceit I still think the VW diesels are probably not as bad polluters as they are now being accused of. It is their ingenious means of subversion that is insidious. I still would buy a diesel if there were more available choices. When I purchased a new Mini Cooper a few years ago, I learned that Cooper had a Mini-D available in Europe and would have waited for it here if it was a possibility. However, it would not the California testing and the US market for diesels is still marginal at best (now probably all but zero). That car has more torque than the Mini-S, almost 60 mpg. There are hybrid diesels in Europe that get around 70 mpg. I know that the future is electric and as soon as the battery can deliver 400 miles on a charge, that will be the end of the petroleum burning automobile.

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