Volkswagen, you’ve changed

File photo dated 07/01/09 of new VW cars waiting on the docks near Sheerness in Kent, as a transport lobby group suggested that millions of cars on UK roads could be recalled as a probe into rigged emissions tests on Volkswagen models in the US threatened to reach Europe. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday September 22, 2015. The German car maker apologised after America's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the company had cheated clean-air rules before ordering it to recall nearly half a million diesel models built in the last seven years. See PA story TRANSPORT Volkswagen. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

I’ve been meaning to post something about the VW situation. The only thing worse for me, as a fully paid up brand fanboi, would be for Apple to suddenly start to dominate their industry… oh.

My affection for the VW brand has always been based on its boringness, that dull reputation for reliability. I always liked the way its engines worked their best at lowish revs, the unflashy design, the plain but functional controls. I liked the slow evolution of both the Beetle and the Golf, the kind of incremental evolution that Apple makes with its phones and laptops. I liked the way the Golf was a genuine everycar, looking as good parked on a gravel drive in the country as it does on the street outside a city terrace.

My wife has owned other brands (a Ford, a couple of Fiats), but I’ve driven nothing but Volkswagens for over 30 years. In order:

  • Beetle 1200
  • Beetle 1303
  • Polo Saloon
  • Golf 2
  • Polo Saloon
  • Bora
  • Passat Estate
  • Golf 5
  • Polo

In addition, my wife has had a Polo, a Lupo and now a Touran. That makes 12.

So, this diesel business. I always knew the diesel engine never had the foothold in the US market that it has in Europe. The Americans, it’s fair to say, do not present a united front when it comes to CO2 emissions, but some states have had stringent air quality standards for years: California in particular. And yet…

Somehow voodoo marketing and sleight of hand have meant that concerns about particulates and nitrogen oxides sank into the background while society focused on CO2 emissions and methane. But the evidence of our own eyes should have warned us something was up: that perpetual haze, the rarity of clear days. You can see the Alps from the bottom of our garden in France on a clear day. The last time I saw them clearly was about two years ago.

So they’ve been lying to us, and maybe some other manufacturers have too, but we’re also culpable because we decided diesels were okay, and that concerns about particulates etc. were unimportant. And we end up with London as one of the most polluted cities on earth: which shouldn’t be happening, should it, this far into the 21st century, with us all driving greener and more economical cars than those that they used to make in the 70s?

How do I feel about VW now? My main feeling is that it’s diesel that should be over, and that my next car (of whatever brand) should have a petrol engine (I’d buy a Tesla in a heartbeat if I had the money). I’m pretty sure that VW are going to be punished enough for this scandal, and that anything I say or do will be meaningless. Am I pissed off with them about this? Yeah, like the fox is pissed off with the scorpion I am. But my feelings about the company have changed because of something else.

If there was a difference between the VW brand and its Audi subsidiary it’s that with Audi you not only pay a premium for the prestige but also for absolutely everything over and above the car and its engine. Things that are standard across other ranges cost extra on an Audi. One of the directors of my old company had an A4 a few years ago: nice looking car. But in the back seat: manual window winders and a bench seat that was about as hard as a park bench.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 19.28.07I was on the VW web site the other day, and I noticed that, when configuring a Golf, only one colour doesn’t cost you extra. Whereas you used to be able to spec a red or white (sometimes black) car without penalty, your only choice now is urano grey. Urano. Even the name seems calculated to give offence. And it’s a disgusting colour, too. The current fashion for white cars (driven, in large part, by Volkswagen themselves who made both Scirocco and Golf look good in white) has given them an opportunity to gouge their prices.

So regardless of the diesel emissions scandal, I’m pissed off with VW for this practice. So fuck ’em.

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2 thoughts on “Volkswagen, you’ve changed”

  1. They’ve changed a bit nowadays, but the first time I picked up a brand new Mercedes direct from the factory in Sindelfingen, it didn’t even come with a radio. The white paint was included as a base option though.

  2. No radio is hilarious. These days, I guess you could get away with a portable Bluetooth speaker wedged into your glovebox/centre console. And as for the ridiculous prices they charge for satnav, when Google maps is free (and better), the mind boggles.

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