Since the Volkswagen TDI Diesel Emissions defeating scandal hits me very personally, I thought I would address my concerns to Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. CEO Michael Horn here on the Daily Diatribe.
So here goes:
19 Octobler 2015
President and CEO
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
SUBJECT: My 2014 Passat TDI SEL Premium
Dear Mr. Horn:
Earlier this year, I bought a very low mileage 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium from a local Volkswagen dealer.
I love this car!
The dealer told me that it was a former Volkswagen of America executive car. Perhaps you drove this car yourself?
I was so happy to get this car because I had been “TDI-less since I had sold my 2004 Jetta TDI Wagon, of which I was also especially attached. My earlier experience with the Jetta made me very fond of the cars, but not all that fond of Volkswagen of America. One of the issues with that car was overheating of the heated seats. It was clearly a manufacturing or design flaw that eventually Volkswagen of America admitted and issued a recall. It was a tedious process where VW avoided the issue for as long as possible, forcing some of us to pay for the repair ourselves while we waited.
Your company did not cover itself with glory in its handling of the defective heated seats but I bought another Volkswagen TDI because I like the car, believe in the technology, and trusted the integrity of Volkswagen Germany.
Today I’m writing to give you some advice:
Don’t follow the same strategy with the current TDI crisis that you did with my overheating seats.
What’s the difference? The heated seat problem was clearly an honest mistake. Your company’s handling of the solution was obstructive and disingenuous, but not surprising.
The current crisis is not an honest mistake. There’s nothing honest about it. Even the letter you sent me about it is not completely honest:
…Earlier this month, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., and Volkswagen AG received notice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Justice, and the California Air Resources Board, informing us that those agencies had determined that certain 2.0L 4-cylinder TDI vehicles do not comply with emissions standards…
Your letter implies that the first your company heard of this was from the EPA and from the State of California but you know that this is not entirely true. I don’t pretend to know who at Volkswagen on either continent knew what about the illegal modification but it’s a pretty good bet that somebody did.
Whether my car, and all the other affected cars was fitted with a device to defeat the emissions testing regime (and, obviously, improve performance and fuel economy) as a result of a policy from company leadership or as a result of a few “rogue” employees is irrelevant. Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen of America are responsible.
Your company sold me an automobile on a fraudulent basis. There it is. The word so many people have been unwilling to say.
Your company committed fraud. You defrauded the public and you defrauded me personally.
With clear intention and malice aforethought, Volkswagen cheated me. I paid something like $6000 extra for my TDI when compared with a similarly equipped gasoline version. I paid a premium to get the car you said was both clean and efficient because I expected it to be clean and efficient. I believed in you and I believed in German engineering but what I believe doesn’t matter. It appears that Volkswagen learned for themselves that you can’t have both, at least not at the scale you were claiming.
And then Volkswagen decided to lie about it.
That’s called false advertising, fraud, and a number of other uncomplimentary things.
To say that my trust in the integrity of Volkswagen has been shaken would be an understatement.
How can you fix it?
I can tell you it goes well beyond just “adjusting” the software of my engine computer. If my engine is adjusted to meet the emission standards, then as sure as night follows day, my fuel economy will suffer. Please don’t insult me by trying to pretend that is not the case. If this was not the case, what would be the point of installing the defeat device in the first place?
When that happens, and I am equally certain that if I keep the car, I will be eventually forced to submit to the modification required, I will then be in possession, ownership, and debt to purchase a car I never agreed to buy. Assuming current fuel prices and a 7 mile-per-gallon drop in efficiency, that alone would account for additional fuel costs over the life of the car in the thousands of dollars. Add to that the increased number of fill ups wasting time, just this cursory look shows a significant increase in cost to me, the owner, the buyer, your customer.
In addition, we should consider the drastic drop in resale value, not to mention the extra $6000 premium I paid for a “clean diesel.”
Again, it’s simply not the car I agreed to buy.
This problem you created is costing or will cost me money and time. You are responsible for that.
You are not getting off the hook by simply reprogramming my engine computer. You are going to get off the hook by making this right in every way 100%.
So here’s my proposal. Choose one of the following:
1. Buy back my car for the full price I paid for it including tax, license, extended warranted, etc.. Don’t haggle with me over the couple thousand miles I’ve put on the car since I bought it. Just write me a check.
2. Replace my car with a 2016 or 2017 Passat V6 Premium, equipped the same or better, including my 7-year extended warranty (no haggling over the few months I’ve had the car), and of course in exterior and interior colors I like. Refund the premium I paid for the “clean diesel.” In short, you give me a new V6 gasoline version equipped exactly the same as my car without me spending one penny, and compensate me for the premium I paid for a TDI.
3. I keep my TDI after you make the modification but you must compensate me for the loss of resale value, additional fuel costs over a 200,000 life of the car, and other reasonable foreseeable expenses related to “error” on the part of your company. You will remain responsible for any unforeseen maintenance issues that come up as a result of the problem or the solution.
I think any of these three would be reasonable. You’ll note that I’ve made no mention of “punitive” damages. I have no interest in punitive damages or punishing Volkswagen, yet. I grow tired of the litigious American society and besides, I think the circumstances and the various costs involved are punishment and lesson enough for you, provided your company acts decisively to make this right with me. I can’t speak for other customers but I for one am willing to accept one of the three solutions above on one simple condition:
You make it happen by Christmas (2015!). I won’t even discuss joining any of the growing class-action lawsuits, provided you make it right by Christmas this year.
You can go a long way with me, and I expect with other Americans, by being decisive and painfully (to VW) fair. I’d even go so far as to say that if you offered a deal and a choice like this to all affected customers in exchange for an agreement not to pursue punitive damages, a large number would take you up on it. Those that remained would have difficulty claiming they continued to be inconvenienced by the recall after they passed up the offer of a very fair deal.
Of course it will hurt. Of course it will cost a lot of money. You’re not going to avoid that. It’s out of your control. What is in your control is how you look when you come out the other end. Act decisively and appear contrite and generous in your solution, you’re going to be on your way to restoring the VW brand. Dig your heels in and fight and, well, I think you know the end of that story.
There you go, Mr. Horn. You now know my thoughts on the matter. You have a chance to get started restoring Volkswagen’s good name and reputation, but don’t delay.
Der Schwerpunkt ist hier und jetzt.
Carl M. Andersen
Passat TDI Owner
Below is an excerpt from my best-selling book, “Honest Money” and is a subject I feel is very important to understand. Please have a look and see if you don’t agree.
The First Bank
Back in the Middle Ages, they didn’t have banks. People either carried their money with them or else hid it in their houses. Some people who wanted more security for their personal wealth sought out a safe place to keep it, but the only people who had vaults or safes were goldsmiths because they naturally had a supply of gold and needed to keep it safe from robbers and thieves.
Goldsmiths started storing other people’s gold for a fee. People would pay them a certain amount per month or year for storing their gold in the vault. The goldsmith would issue a paper receipt, stamped with his personal seal, for the specific items or amount of gold on deposit with him. This was the first use of what became known in the bullion business as a “warehouse receipt.”
A corollary to this must, following simple logic, therefore be:
“Never underestimate the capacity for stupidity in yourself.”
So here’s my story. As many of my readers know, I live in Thailand. What you may not know is that my wife and I bought a house in Minnesota last year. We still live in Thailand but we’re keeping the home in Minnesota for that dreamed-of day in the future when we move back to the land of the sky-blue waters.
I also have a storage bin of possessions (from the “BH” or “Before Helen” period of my life) that are still in the storage bin I rented several years ago. These items are not all moved into the new house because, well, there’s a lot of stuff there and I don’t want to just dump them in the new house because then I’d spent my painfully short vacations going through stuff and I’m not ready to do that yet.
In aviation, we say that an accident is usually the result of a chain or series of mistakes or poor choices, and I think that’s true in all endeavors.
First mistake: Take the keys to the storage bin to Thailand. Continue reading
As I was winding up my one and only tour in the Foreign Service of the United States, I was invited by a friend to attend a dinner in Bangkok with a group of senior Thai Police Officers. There were about eight, at least half were four-star generals, and I was the only foreigner at the table.
At this point in Thai history, there was an election underway and lots of discussion and debate about the different parties’ methods of winning votes. One getting a lot of attention in the press was the practice of swooping into a town around election day and just paying cash to residents for a commitment to vote for the candidate of “their” choice. (a practice that, regrettably, has not been completely eradicated).
While this distinguished group of gentlemen discussed the topic over dinner, I just listened, until one bald-headed general turned to me and asked, “So Carl, do you have vote buying in America?”
In the interest of full disclosure, I warn you that this story is a bit of a meandering tangled web but I promise, on my honor, that I will put it all together for you at the end. Please don’t read ahead. It will be worth it.
The story you are about to read is true. None of the names have been changed “to protect the innocent” because with only one exception, there are no “innocents” involved!