How Volkswagen Broke Consumer Trust with “Dieselgate”

This past September, consumers and auto dealers were disturbed to learn that Volkswagen intentionally lied about emissions and mileage in vehicles sold since 2009. On September 19th, a notice of violation was issued by the EPA, revealing that Volkswagen had deliberately outfitted 11 million diesel engine vehicles with a “defeat device,” a software code designed to trick laboratory testing into reading vehicle emissions as much lower than they actually are. In fact, it was found that the vehicles in question emit up to 40x more nitrogen oxide than the law permits.

The effects of the scandal have been far-reaching. Since “Dieselgate” broke, Volkswagen stock prices have plunged, the company’s CEO has resigned and 8.5 million vehicles have been recalled in Europe. The company faces potential class-action lawsuits accusing it of fraud and breached contracts.

In addition, the company has been lambasted by a public that feels justifiably insulted by the deception. Vehicle emissions are an increasing concern due to their significant contribution to air pollution and resulting problems. The revelation that Volkswagen knowingly manipulated their emissions testing results feels especially insidious when we consider that the Volkswagen Jetta won the Green Car of the Year award in 2009 (the award has since been rescinded) and Volkswagen deliberately advertised its cars as having low emissions. Not only that, but Volkswagen’s false laboratory results also garnered them Green Car subsidies and tax exemptions.

Even China, a country notorious for its decidedly lax air pollution policy, has expressed concern over Volkswagen’s dishonesty about its vehicle emissions, which is certainly saying something.

As Volkswagen struggles to regain consumer trust—a task that seems Sisyphean at this point—vehicle buyers will undoubtedly turn to auto manufacturers with better reputations. We are interested to see how other manufacturers might benefit from the scandal, as well as how consumers might approach them with higher levels of trepidation.

At EmpireCLS, we prioritize customer trust, and we take vehicle reputation into consideration when selecting our fleet, alongside luxury appointments, performance and safety ratings. Thankfully, all of the vehicles in our fleet have upheld an excellent reputation in everything from safety to emissions—no scandals here. And should that change, we’ll take action immediately to ensure that our fleet remains top-performing and forward-thinking.

Photo Credit: Automobile Italia