The news of VW seemingly being caught red-handed rigging emissions tests of its diesel-powered vehicles has hit like a bombshell. The Wolfsburg, Germany based automaker is reeling like never before.
The U.S. Department of Justice is launching a criminal probe, and potential penalties of up to $18 billion may be imposed. The criminal prosecution of VW top managers and engineers for fraud are likely looming.
According to reports, VW engineers tricked the emissions testing software so that it would hide the incline, and thus delivered the results that the company and regulators wanted to see.
Already many are accusing the company of defrauding the public and its customers, engaging in criminal activity, and even committing green high crimes. This is really serious trouble for VW. So what strategy should VW use to defend itself?
Perhaps they ought to take a page or two out of the Climategate Playbook, where thousands of leaked e-mails indicated climate scientists were manipulating data, dubiously splicing datasets, hiding code and even corrupting the peer review process. Following the strategy used in the wake of Climategate, VW should:
1. Claim that the accusers aren’t real automotive experts, and so they shouldn’t be taken seriously.
2. Claim it’s a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
3. Point out that the “emissions trick” is “just a clever mathematical trick to hide” the emissions incline.
4. Set up three “independent” high-ranking commissions – all made up of close VW partners, suppliers and “real experts”, with the task of investigating the allegations.
5. Put out a statement saying that the company is so depressed that it is even having thoughts of committing suicide.
6. Issue an official report from all three commissions exonerating VW, claiming that though the company’s methods were controversial, the vehicles are still all within the spirit of industry standards.
7. Insist that the engineering behind VW diesel engines “is robust” and that their vehicles are among the cleanest cars in the world.
8. Insist that they are the target of a vast conspiracy, all led by Ford, GM and the fossil fuels industry – and that they are the ones who really need to be investigated.
9. Get 20 leading academics to write a letter demanding the Department of Justice investigate Ford, GM and the fossil fuels industry for obstructing the production of fuel-efficient cars.
10. File defamation lawsuits against any journalists or experts who point out your alleged misconduct, or evidence thereof.
Indeed there are many other strategies that can be borrowed from the Climategate playbook.
Unfortunately the company’s top executives already publicly opened their mouths and appeared to admit guilt, and so they may have unnecessarily complicated or even damaged their case. VW chief Winterkorn said he was “deeply sorry” and ordered an investigation.
Moreover Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of VW’s Center of Automotive Research in Germany, said: “This disaster is beyond all expectations.” Disaster? Why? Everyone knows VW makes some of the best and cleanest cars in the world. Why should that be a “disaster”?
Before making such comments VW’s top brass should have first consulted with their technical experts on the matter – and acquired the damage control services of Mann, Jones & Muller.
The strategy was effective for the Climategate scientists, and so it should do the trick for VW.
PS: Personally I think this is mostly political and it is a first shot in a coming war against the automotive industry and our private mobility. Overall VW cars are clean, well-built, safe, fuel-efficient and reliable cars. I’ve owned 3 in my life and was completely satisfied. The whole affair to me stinks of government attacking one company on behalf of another (or others).