The unfolding VW exhaust emissions scandal has not caused widespread astonishment across the car industry as the world doesn’t discover for the first time that diesel cars spew out horrible smelly pollution, just like they always have done. As the world’s media gleefully “revealed” the extent of diesel’s muckiness, the non-finding was quickly confirmed by transport experts as well as millions of ordinary people who have happened to find themselves standing behind a diesel car at traffic lights at some point in their lives.
Regulators world-wide are now scrambling to catch up and to develop new testing measures to beat the cheats. The European Commission quickly came out with the new “olfactory nose-related testing cycle” where volunteers with big noses are asked to stand behind cars and say if they smell horrible. If they do, the car fails its NOx and particulate emissions tests.
In the meantime everyone on TV has suddenly become an expert on car emissions. Commentators on TV and radio were soon spouting nearly as much rubbish as a VW tailpipe, merrily mixing their NOx with their N2O with their GHG with their BMW. Other facets of the story were seemingly too good to be true. A member of the VW board really is called Mr Olaf Lies (though rumours that his middle name is Damned and that his wife is called Statistics are as yet unconfirmed).
It remains to be seen whether the impact on car buyers will be felt. Speaking from a gas station forecourt in Texas, one potential car buyer say “Why’s everyone going about Nox? I think they mean the Red Nox. That’s a European baseball team”. Others conceded that they had heard about this pollution thing but it didn’t matter because they’ll be sitting inside the car and not outside of it, so why should they care? Back in Europe a poll of average first-time car buyers ranked “tailpipe emissions” as the 98th most important criterion out of 100 when buying a car, squeaking in just above the colour of the bolts holding the chassis together and the waxiness of the salesman’s moustache.
In other news, it has been rumoured that the England rugby team has also been fitted with a so-called “defeat device”, said to self-activate under any high-pressure world cup match scenario.
[In all seriousness, experts ranging from the stuffy bureaucracy of the OECD to the agile NGO Transport and Environment have been banging on for years about the lunacy of giving tax breaks to drivers of diesel cars. Perhaps now somebody will listen]