Volkswagen, the largest manufacturer of cars in the world, has admitted to cheating on emissions tests.
How bad is this? Eleven million cars were deliberately given sophisticated software that detected when the car was being given an emissions test (detecting that the steering wheel was not being turned even though the accelerator was being pressed, etc.), and reduced pollution so the cars would pass the test. But with the pollution controls on, the cars suffer from poor fuel efficiency and even worse performance, which would have hurt customer sales. So when the cars are not being tested, the pollution controls are disabled, causing the cars to (virtually all the time) pollute up to 40 times more than the legal limits. And the predominant pollutant is one of the most dangerous: nitrous oxides.
VW then marketed these cars as “CleanDiesel”, aggressively promoting their too-good-to-be-true combination of low pollution, excellent fuel economy, and good performance.
To those people who don’t think governments can do anything right, it took the US regulatory agencies to stop this massive fraud. Or if you think the government has no business regulating pollution standards, I beg to remind you that in the US alone, 200,000 deaths a year are caused by air pollution, and in the world, around 7 million deaths a year. That’s one hell of a holocaust every single year. And it costs us trillions of dollars in extra health care costs.
UPDATE: The Audi Superbowl ad has new meaning now (Audi is a subsidiary of VW and used the same evil engine).