Anyone who thinks the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” isn’t a big deal either is kidding themselves or works in the automaker’s PR department. Already, the company is facing some pretty dire circumstances as several governments talk huge penalties, consumers begin lawyering-up for class action suits and competitors exploit the situation. There’s a chance that in the fallout, Volkswagen will have inadvertently ushered in the final demise of diesel-powered light vehicles in the United States and elsewhere.
That’s a bold prediction, and admittedly several factors are still very much up in the air, but at this point the absolute annihilation of diesel is within the realm of possibilities. With governments cracking down on emissions, the public becoming less tolerant of the many effects of burning fossil fuels and big developments in cleaner alternative fuels such as electric powertrains, diesel is about to give up the ghost.
While it could be a hoax, Jalopnik posted a photo of an angry note that supposedly was left on a VW TDI in Portland. The public feels betrayed, as do many VW owners, by cars that have been spewing out emissions that harm the young, old and those with respiratory problems the most. Add to that the “rolling coal” crowd who purposely defeat their vehicle’s emissions controls, and many aren’t amused by diesel at all.
Numerous reports indicate that VW isn’t alone in making diesel vehicles that exceed legal emissions standards. For example, Autobild says that during a test it conducted the BMW X3 xDrive20d produced 11 times the allowed emissions levels. The Guardian covered a study that claims 9 out of 10 diesel cars in the EU exceed the legal pollution limits. While BMW and Mercedes have both gone on the offensive and deny any wrongdoing, the winds of change are picking up speed.
Even more infuriating are reports that Bosch not only knew about VW’s defeat measures way back in 2007, but that the parts company actually created the software. At the moment, it’s uncertain if Bosch will face any legal consequences.
All of this has culminated in numerous industry sources, including Elon Musk, declaring that Dieselgate proves internal combustion engines can’t offer any more significant fuel economy or emissions improvements. The EPA is getting ready to drop the hammer on automakers and end emissions self-testing. The first thing to go would be diesel, with gasoline-powered cars not too far behind. Ultimately, only those who choose to adapt and make the jump will survive, with automakers who stubbornly fight against this trend falling by the wayside.