I was excited to be invited to the reveal of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat not just because my first car was a Volkswagen but also because the reputation of Volkswagen is stellar. At least it was at the time.
The event certainly didn’t disappoint. On a pier near the southern tip of Manhattan, we boarded ferries with open-air views of the night skyline. Our destination was the Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn, a massive hanger space which, by the end of the night, was filled with media representatives, tastemakers and, of course, several versions of the brand new 2016 Volkswagen Passat.
No doubt you’ve seen Volkswagen in the news a lot during the past few weeks. Their current scandal has rocked the automotive world. That said, it should come as no surprise that the launch party started with an apology.
“We have totally screwed up,” said Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. He made this proclamation at the beginning of the evening, before the throngs of journalists had been plied with liquor, German food and the song stylings of Lenny Kravitz.
As we milled about, trying to take pictures of Lenny Kravitz and get a good look at the 2016 Volkswagen Passats that were on display, many of us compared notes about the drama. Here’s the short version: Volkswagen got caught cheating on pollution control.
During a study of diesel emissions, it was accidentally discovered that Volkswagen has been installing secret programs into the on-board computers of their diesel engine cars. The program allows the cars to recognize when they are being tested for emissions and, in response, produce emissions low enough to pass the stringent guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Likewise, the code is programmed to recognize when it is not being tested, in which case it relaxes, allowing the car to spew up to 40 percent more nitrogen oxide than the legal limit. Nitrogen Oxide is dangerous because it can cause respiratory issues and contribute to the formation of acid rain. Approximately 11 million diesel cars with the cheating program installed have been sold to date and about 500,000 of those were sold in the USA.
In the wake of the scandal, Martin Winterkorn, the CEO who successfully pushed for Volkswagen to overtake Toyota as the number one car seller in the world, has resigned and been replaced by Matthias Müller of Porsche (Volkswagen owns both Porsche and Audi). Müller has stated that his top priority is restoring the faith of the public but, thus far, he has not committed to a recall, which would prove costly.
Time will tell how this scandal plays out but the diesel engine has likely suffered a devastating loss that will push the auto industry even further towards hybrids.
As for the 2016 Volkswagen Passat, we didn’t get to test-drive it but it looked awfully pretty. Thank goodness it’s not a diesel. (re-posted from Bay Street Banner)
AT A GLANCE:
- 2016 Volkswagen Passat
- Starts at $22,440
- Produced in Chattanooga, TN at the world’s only LEED Platinum-certified manufacturing facility
- Features Volkswagen’s second-generation “modular infotainment platform”, which features touchscreens as standard equipment on all models
- Energy-efficient LED headlights and taillights available for the first time on a VW sedan