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VW’s case of NOxious emissions: a tale of SMOKE and MIRRORS?

Benchmark THIS, Mr Diesel Guy

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Karma must be a great comfort to those who believe in it. The assurance that nasty deeds will be accounted for, eventually, must make all the shit we have to put up with worthwhile.

Take Martin Winterkorn, forced to resign his role as head of Volkswagen this week, amid revelations that his company had been systematically covering up VW’s policy of poisoning the atmosphere with nitrogen oxide.

Karma has now struck the poor man a swinging blow, with Winterkorn now having to survive on a meagre €3.2m severance payment and then eking out a hand-to-mouth existence on his €1m annual pension.

That’ll learn him!

For readers who might be unaware of the VW scandal (drivers of diesel cars, for example, since so many of their brain cells have been killed by exhaust fumes) it’s a fascinating mashup of automotive engineering, software development, and capitalist greed.

In summary, it has been found that the software management system in one of VW’s diesel engines, said to be present in some 11 million cars around the world, employs a clever little software algorithm to determine whether the engine is being driven normally or being put through an emissions test.*

When it detects the latter, it switches to a mode that produces low emissions while sacrificing performance to an extent that, we are told, is not sustainable in everyday driving.

This ensures the car achieves official low emissions status while, back on the road, it proceeds to cough out (up to) 40 times more nitrogen oxide than US regulation permits.

“Professor Dr. Winterkorn had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions data,” assures the Executive Committee of Volkswagen AG’s Supervisory Board.

Sir Humphrey Appleby could not have explained it better.

What is it with VW and lack of knowledge? It’s as if not knowing anything is a badge of honour for VW, worn like VW medals themselves around Beastie Boys’ necks. Should I look up Martin Winterkorn on LinkedIn and expect to find that one of his most highly peer-endorsed skills is “Ignorant Twat”?

Typically, it took more than a few prods to make Winterkorn leap from his virtual ledge. Bosses always claim responsibility and accept vast financial bonuses for the effort and hard graft of their underpaid employees when things go well, yet distance themselves when these same employees doing the same things in the same way manage to cock it up.

None of this comes as a shock. A “defeat device”, or what could more accurately be described as a “cheat device”, that is designed to produce false test results is hardly a new idea.

For example, have you ever read a review of a computer, and was so impressed that you bought the same model, only to find that its real-world performance was pants? There you go.


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