Talk to the people, Volkswagen!
I have been investigating the Volkswagen emissions scandal since September 2015. Last November, I wrote a column addressing Volkswagen’s improper handling of the case in Korea.
I pointed out that the carmaker offered subpar compensation for Korean consumers compared to customers in the United States and delayed specific plans until the results of the Ministry of Environment’s investigation came out. Meanwhile, Volkswagen rolled out discounts and promotions to sell its inventory.
Seven months have passed and little has changed. While the Ministry of Environment investigation confirmed Volkswagen’s emissions fraud, no compensation has been offered to Korean consumers. It submitted sloppy recall plans three times, all of which were turned down by the ministry. The carmaker continues to offer discounts and promotions without apologizing for its fraudulent modification. Online groups of Volkswagen drivers say they’ve had enough.
Meanwhile, criticism has grown as a prosecutors’ investigation has shown that Volkswagen modified the emissions controls not only on diesel cars, as revealed in the United States, but also in the gasoline-powered Golf 1.4TSI.
According to a source in the prosecutors’ office, Volkswagen did not pass the emissions test by the National Institute of Environmental Research. But the company delayed the testing process for over a year by lying on four occasions.
First, it claimed that the model setting was not right and then that the cause was unknown. It also argued that the connector was broken, and then argued that it was not completely connected. When it failed the test over and over, the German headquarters finally ordered the software changed.
Former and current Volkswagen executives say that the company was not aware of the gravity of the affair. A source who worked for Volkswagen in the past said the company still does not realize the seriousness of the situation.
“They take pride in their technology, and if they admit altering the emissions program, their pride will fall,” the source said.
A Volkswagen employee said the company expected the investigation to subside and that they are focused on selling more cars.
Volkswagen Korea says they will cooperate with the investigation. The same notice — “We will do our best for a timely resolution” — has been posted on the website for seven months.
On Wednesday, Volkswagen called me and asked what they should do. But they already know the answer. They should sincerely respond to calls from the public.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 23, Page 29
*The author is a business news reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo.