July 28, 2017
German government bans Porsche Cayenne
The German car cartel story is hugely significant because it connects the dots between various scandals that have recently hit the headlines. The car cartel has turned the VW emissions scandal into a Germany-wide scandal. Yesterday, the German government took the extreme measure of forcing a recall, and ordering a stop of sales, of the Diesel version of the Porsche Cayenne, the company’s four-wheel drive car. This model uses the same cheating software that VW has used elsewhere. The German government has been the guardian angel of the car industry, lobbying endlessly for the softening of EU emissions rules and in favour of low-budget emissions testing, but public opinion towards the car industry has shifted so dramatically that a CSU-run transport ministry can now impose a ban of one of the most prestigious German cars a few weeks before an election.
The cheating software was discovered by the federal motor transport authority and the transport ministry. All existing cars face a forced recall. 7500 cars in Germany are affected, and 22,000 in Europe, according to FAZ. The software works by detecting whether a car is driving on the street, or whether it is in a test situation. In the latter case the emissions and the power of the vehicle are reduced.
It is an astonishing sign of the criminal will of German companies that they continued to use the software even after the VW scandal broke two years ago. FAZ reports that the forced recall may affect other models as well. The VW Touareg shows similar behaviour to the Cayenne, and will now be subject to detailed tests.
Süddeutsche reports that Audi engineers had already warned in 2013 about the emissions cheating, according to internal documents. The importance of that story is that it debunks the lie told by the management of the German industry that the cheating was the work of a small group of rogue employees, and that senior management had no knowledge of what had happened. The document warns about the possibility that the cheating software is discovered, and recommends getting rid of it before this happens. But the warning was ignored by the management of the company. The memo contained all the arguments why the software would be extremely damaging to the company - very high penalties, plus an irreparable reputational loss.
The criminal will of the German car industry is now changing political attitudes. The German industry has enjoyed a special status in Germany politics. FAZ has a separate article explaining the German government’s position on diesel and petrol engines. While Germany will not legislate a specific end date for the sale of these engines, the policies they will be pursuing will ultimate amount to the same thing. We think this is an exaggeration, but the point is that people will stop buying a technology that is not future-proof, and that they associate with environmental damage and criminal activity. The German government will not be able to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80 to 95 per cent below the 1990 levels without a change in the diesel technology. The government’s immediate goal is a sharp fall in car emissions by 2030, which will require a significant proportion of electric cars for the target to be met.