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2015年9月27日 (日)

VW排ガス不正 顧客を欺く大規模な規制逃れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Consumers betrayed by VW’s scheme to evade controls on vehicle emissions
VW排ガス不正 顧客を欺く大規模な規制逃れ

Despite being touted as “clean diesel” cars, Volkswagen vehicles were found to have discharged emissions that far exceeded the required environmental standards.

This act betrayed consumers who are strongly concerned about environmental conservation and was extremely pernicious.

It was recently revealed that the German carmaker had taken illegal measures to ensure its vehicles passed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s emission control tests.

The scheme involved software installed in diesel engines that was designed to make vehicles’ emission levels meet the standard required by the U.S. authorities — but only at the time of the emissions test.

When the vehicles were driven on the road, the engines were reportedly found to discharge nitrogen oxide at levels up to 40 times the standard.

Eleven million Volkswagen vehicles around the world have been affected by the test-rigging scandal. This includes a number of popular models, including the Golf.

In announcing his resignation to take responsibility for the scandal, Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said, “I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen group.” We have to say that Volkswagen lacks corporate governance despite its status as a world-leading carmaker.

Were company executives involved in the irregularities? We want the factors behind the misconduct to be thoroughly revealed by investigations by the EPA and others.

VW has Audi, Porsche and other carmakers under its wing. With fuel-efficient diesel vehicles as its mainstay product, VW doubled its global car sales to 10 million in the decade from 2004, thereby bringing it into competition with Toyota Motor Corp. for the No. 1 position in the world.

Heavy price to pay

However, the German maker has been forced to fight an uphill battle in the U.S. market, where strict emission controls are in place and there is strong competition from hybrid vehicles manufactured by Toyota and other carmakers. VW’s irritation over this, it could be said, led to the wrongdoing.

VW may be fined up to $18 billion (about ¥2 trillion), which would top its annual profits. The price for its misconduct is very heavy.

VW’s diesel vehicles are not officially sold in Japan, although they were scheduled to enter the market next year. The company will inevitably have to reexamine its sales strategy.

The European Commission, which is the executive body of the European Union, called for its member nations to conduct a fact-finding survey based on suspicions that carmakers other than VW have also engaged in misconduct. The automobile industry, which holds a key position in each country in which it conducts business, is being tested on its ability to cleanse itself of wrongdoing.

Fierce competition for fuel efficiency among car manufacturers could be behind the VW scandal. Consumers have a strong tendency to choose vehicles that perform even just a little better than others in terms of fuel efficiency. Moreover, many people have pointed out that even in Japan, there is a huge difference between the fuel efficiency figures in product catalogs and what is actually seen in normal use, which causes confusion.

A sincere attitude is needed on the part of carmakers to provide consumers with accurate information.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2015)


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