Just when you think a horror story can’t get any further in yo’ face - Volkswagen does it again. The dieselgate scandal continues to age like fine wine - you think it’s perfect today, and then you leave it the barrel for a couple more months, and it just gets better.
In this report: As a purely risk-management issue, would you do business with any company that chooses to treat its owners in this way?
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I’m John Cadogan, the founder of AutoExpert.com.au - the place where Aussie new car buyers save thousands on their next new cars. Hit me up via the website for that, and we’ll take our relationship to the next level. But now: Here’s what’s been happening at ‘Spawn of Hitler’ central:
Documents tendered in Australian Federal Court last week by lawyers Maurice Blackburn, on behalf of Volkswagen owners, point strongly to illegal, coercive and even extortionate behaviour by Volkswagen and its areshole dealers in the dieselgate clean-up attempt.
Those Volkswagen dicktips were formally accused, therefore, of pressuring drivers to agree to the proposed remedial software patch, or else throw away their rights to compensation … by signing an apparently unlawful waiver. Nice going.
The illegal waiver
One document, titled ‘Reporting Form for Recall Refusal’ allegedly said:
“Neither Volkswagen nor the authorised dealer can be held responsible for any damage or loss suffered as a result of the recall action not being performed on your vehicle.”
Newsflash, because my bullshit detector just lit up: 1. It’s not a recall, you lying Volkswagen mongrels. Recalls are only enacted for safety defects in Australia, and this is a formalised process, usually voluntary. So that’s bullshit, and I hate bullshit. 2. What you’re proposing is fucking illegal … so: Small problem there.
The lame excuse
Volkswagen did, however, offer a somewhat compelling explanation. A spokesperson for those immoral German dogturds said:
“Unfortunately, it appears that contrary to Volkswagen's instructions, a staff member at one dealer has handed out a form that was withdrawn and replaced nine months ago by one that more clearly states the owner's rights.”
The great thing about investigating this and that is … it highlights the difference between bullshit and the truth. And that’s bullshit - epic bullshit. What I find so offensive about it is the breathtaking corporate presumption that we - the recipients of said bullshit - are so profoundly stupid that we will all not just swallow it, but that it will taste like caviar … which tastes like shit, if you ask me.
Are we really supposed to believe that Volkswagen commissioned its lawyers to produce an unethical waiver that was never ultimately to be handed out, perhaps as some kind of fucking in-house joke, and it accidentally got distributed and handed out? And now we are handing all responsibility for this illegal document dissemination to some unnamed junior-burger, shit-kicker at a dealership? Really?
The fact that this document exists, was commissioned, was produced, was approved - ever - is monumentally disgraceful. Documents like this don’t just pop up like weeds in the lawn after a week of rain in spring. They’re not accidents.
Are we merely to believe, alternatively, that the practice of coercing owners to sign illegal waivers was officially rescinded nine months ago? So now - we’re squeaky clean. That’s like Bill Cosby saying ‘it’s all good - I have not helped an aspiring actress with her career in the past nine months. Except once - and that was an accident.’
Lame excuse, Mk II
Of these bullshit, illegal and - allegedly - accidental forms, Volkswagen says:
“Dealers use such forms so that a reliable record of the recall can be kept.”
This, too, is a Himalaya of horseshit. 1. It’s not a recall, you breathtaking retards. 2. There are no paper records of work done on vehicles - if that’s all you want to record, you already have the mechanism to do that on your Volkswagen mainframe. All work - services, service campaigns, upgrades, recalls - all work on all vehicles is entered into the system by VIN code - the unique 17-digit alpha-numeric identifier for every vehicle. That’s the official recording system. It already exists.
I don’t know about you, but I detest my intelligence being insulted by disingenuous corporate bullshitter spokespeople. Honest opinion.
I’d suggest that the only conceivable reason for presenting you with an illegal waiver in the guise of some pro forma alleged recall document is so that Volkswagen can cut your balls off in court, if it ever gets that far … even if you’re a chick. But more likely to be thrust in yo’ face if you find yourself in some dispute with them in the future.
Extortion, Volkswagen dealer-style
The Lawyer representing Volkswagen owners said:
“We're hearing stories that range from threats to not performing warranty work, through to examples where customers have actually had their car detained by the dealer until such time as they agree to sign this acknowledgement form.”
So, I’m just getting that together in the domain of ‘what that really means’. [PAUSE] OK - got it. This demonstrates clearly that Volkswagen and its dealers operate on an ethical playing field where extortion is not just OK, but an entirely reasonable, and perhaps even an example of best business practice. And you still want to buy one?
This conduct is believable, but at the same time absolutely outrageous - I mean, why not just cut out the middleman here and zip-tie the uncooperative owners to bare metal chairs in the service department? Bring over some car batteries and jumper leads, and get those damn software upgrades approved? That’d be the efficient way to do it.
You’d need a snappy name for the process. How about: ‘environment enhancement, emissions recalibration community outreach and education programme’? Just recharge the batteries at the end of each session, hose the floor down and go again tomorrow until the job’s done. Just following orders.
The ACCC wakes up; chimes in
Chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims, who normally appears to me to be somewhat asleep, even chimed in, and told the ABC:
“I don't think I've seen anything quite like this in quite a long time — to present this to consumers without any understanding of the full implications of the fix or without explaining what the liability is.”
This is pretty full-on stuff from a suit like Mr Sims. He said the Volkswagen document was (quote) “outrageous” - that’s almost profanity for him - and said Volkswagen did not explain what the implications of the fix actually were:
"Does it affect the performance of the vehicle? It's not clear from that form — it's not clear whether people have had that explained to them, so they're being asked to accept a fix possibly without understanding what the implications are. We would urge anyone who's been presented with one of these forms to contact us, at accc.gov.au, and let us know what their experience has been.”
Dieselgate fix &
Here’s the hot tip on the Volkswagen dieselgate software Band-Aid - and what it means for performance. What Volkswagen did originally was cheat the emissions to get better performance. If you run an engine too lean it will make more torque at the crank - so that’s good. Unfortunately, emissions, and specifically oxides of nitrogen, which are dangerous to human health, go through the roof if you do that.
So if you cheat the test and get your engine to run too lean out in the real world, it will go better but emit too many oxides of nitrogen. And if you fix it, with a software upgrade, you will reverse that. Inevitably the engine will perform worse, but be cleaner. This cannot work any other way - without violating fundamental laws of chemistry and/or thermodynamics. It’s an intrinsic engineering compromise.
A sincere 'thank you'
Michael Bartsch is the managing director of Volkswagen Australia. And to Mr Bartsch I say a heartfelt thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to take the reigns of that shitbox company shortly after dieselgate broke, when the ‘new black’ for Volkswagen executives was to walk around with your pants around your ankles in public. And you did this very well, metaphorically, in my view.
I mean, all the company did was poison people to pump up their profits. And the media reports this like it’s a bad thing. I greatly admired your earlier temper tantrum - honest personal opinion - on dieselgate’s auspicious first birthday, when the motoring clubs consequentially eliminated you from their car of the year awards. I’d like to thank you for that sincerely, because I greatly enjoyed reporting that.
In truth, I thought that would be the end of it. Back then, I thought we were at the undignified Volkswagen behaviour event horizon. The place where your company’s conduct could simply not get any worse. And yet here you are, today, striving to advance, continuing to surprise and delight reporters like me - that’s almost the exact opposite of the Volkswagen ownership experience.
I know you could have taken the easy option, Mr Bartsch. Volkswagen in Australia could have acted with appropriate humility. You could could have supported your customers proactively, instead of apparently taking the decision coerce and extort them, and drag them through court, unpleasantly. It would have been so easy to take that soft option.
But if you had done that, I’d be sitting here now, with the lights off, wearing no pants, with my feet up on the desk, downloading porn and with nothing to report. But, as I look up into the night sky I think of the tens of thousands of car buyers actively in the market now, afloat on an intimidatingly jet black ocean, trying to navigate these treacherous waters and arrive safely at the right new car. Not everyone makes it.
I’d like to thank Volkswagen through you, Mr Bartsch, for being such a beacon in that confusing night sky. The vehicular equivalent of the Southern Cross, or Polaris. All those customers adrift … then the clouds part momentarily and they see the Volkswagen logo shining dead ahead.
A strong navigational indicator, which says go about. Go about now, because the land of unprincipled cocks and unethical shitheads lies dead ahead. And if you run aground there, all hope will certainly be lost. Some people will criticise you, Mr Bartsch, and your company. But I say, keep up the excellent work. Looking forward to the next instalment; I’m sure it will also be outstanding. This is my honest personal opinion.
And now to you, the car buyer watching this report: If you are still thinking about buying a Volkswagen … are you on crack? They’re nice cars. They drive OK. But why the hell would any rational person choose to do business with an organisation that continues to demonstrate the underlying ethics Idi Amin’s and Kim Jong Un Vaginabrows bastard son? I’m John Cadogan. Thanks for watching.
* This report is my own honest personal opinion. Collective references are occasionally made conversationally in respect of Volkswagen corporate entities - these are in no way intended to be references to individuals within those corporations. Use of the term 'bullshit' in this report is not intended as an allegation of lies - for more on this visit http://autoexpert.com.au/bullshit