Volkswagen: Choking On Bad Choices

Do you think that your Volkswagen is good for the Earth? Think again. The German car manufacturer, known for creating the famous Beetle, is now under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency for falsifying emissions numbers in thousands of vehicles.

Volkswagen has been accused of circumventing pollution controls for vehicles that have been sold in the United States since 2008. Vehicles are allegedly equipped with software that turns on emissions controls only when the vehicles are tested. When those vehicles are driving, however, that software turns off, causing the cars to produce emissions that are almost 40 times higher than the nation’s allowable standard.

640px-VW_Passat_2.0_TDI_BlueMotion_Technology_Comfortline_(B7)_–_Frontansicht,_1._Mai_2011,_Ratingen

The 2010 Volkswagen Passat is one of the models containing software that falsifies emissions testing. Photo courtesy of M 93 via Wikipedia CC.

These actions violate the Clean Air Act, and could cost Volkswagen almost $18 billion in penalties.

Other car manufacturers, like Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor Co., have been penalized by the EPA for similar claims about fuel economy, so this sort of scandal is not new in the auto industry.

Volkswagen’s chief executive officer, Martin Winterkorn, resigned Wednesday, detailing his reasons in a statement on the company’s web site. He took full responsibility for the actions of the company and said that Volkswagen needed a fresh start.

Transparency is key in crisis situations such as this and Volkswagen has done its best to release information to consumers and show that they are working to remedy the situation. In addition to Winkertorn’s statement on the Volkswagen web site, a video statement was released on the company’s Facebook page in addition to a lengthy post explaining the situation. For the most part, comments on both posts offer an outpouring of support for both Winterkorn and the company as a whole.

Did Volkswagen officials truly believe that this decision would go undetected? While it is unclear why Volkswagen thought this plan of action was a good idea, this could hurt the brand’s reputation. Will Volkswagen sales be affected due to this scandal? Only time will tell.

How would you rate Volkswagen’s handling of this situation? Does this represent good crisis communication?

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