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No matter how bad of a day you may have at work, remember that you probably don’t have it as bad as executives at Volkswagen, who have been overwhelmed by a scandal of catastrophic proportions. After VW America president Michael Horn admitted the company attempted to evade emissions tests by installing “cheat” software in some of its diesel-powered models, CNN reported that one-third of VW’s value on the global market was wiped out. There could be as many as 11 million vehicles affected worldwide.
In Horn’s own words, “Our company was dishonest with the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and California Air Resources Board (CARB), and all of you. We have totally screwed up.”
That’s putting it mildly.
For years, several VW models were equipped with a software program designed to fool emissions tests, which are required in many states. The program engages the models’ emissions control system, making it appear to testing equipment that the vehicles are cleaner than they really are.
The truth, however, was far different. During regular operation, these vehicles, according to the EPA, emit up to 40 times the level of pollutants allowed by the agency’s Clean Air Act. What makes this problem even worse, CNN correspondent Peter Valdes-Dapena said, is the fact that this was not a mistake but rather a deliberate act. “This is a huge mess that will be very difficult to clean up,” Valdes-Dapena said. “I don’t know how VW will be able to fix the cars in a way that they can perform while at the same time meet emissions standards. The brand is clearly damaged.”
The EPA and CARB, in conjunction with the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), performed tests on two VW diesel models as well as a diesel car made by an unnamed manufacturer. Drew Kodjak of the ICCT told CNN that the purpose of the tests was to prove that diesels could run clean on U.S. roads. One of the models showed that a diesel car could run normally and still meet emissions standards. However, the two VWs that were tested were compliant during test cycles but released “significant” emissions during regular operation.
Owners of the VW vehicles rigged to defeat emissions tests are angry. They bought these cars thinking they were doing something for the environment when they were, in fact, harming it without being aware. These are the models outfitted with the “cheater” software: