Apology and compensation firstThe Ministry of Environment on Tuesday revoked the certifications of 83,000 vehicles of 80 models in 32 variants sold by Audi Volkswagen Korea with falsified emission and noise tests. That is in addition to 126,000 vehicles whose certificates were cancelled for the same reason in November, which brings the total to 209,000 units — 68 percent of Audi and Volkswagen vehicles sold in Korea since 2007.
The company was fined the maximum amount allowed by local law: 17.8 billion won ($16 million). It makes this the government’s heaviest sanction on a single carmaker.
But the German carmaker had it coming. In the United States, when the so-called defeat device scandal was first brought up in September, it acted fast in making recalls and compensation efforts. It spent $14.7 billion to repurchase cars. But in Korea, it remained careless and arrogant. It offered to recall the cars charged by local authorities with emission rigging without admitting its fault.
When the government accused it of fabricating documents for certification, it claimed it was a technical mistake. When sanctions were unavoidable, the carmaker suddenly announced it would voluntarily stop the sale of problematic vehicles in the hopes of lessening the fine. Its dealers carried out a fire sale to offload stock. The carmaker obviously had no respect for Korean consumers or the government.
Korean consumers are enraged. They no longer feel good about driving a clean-fuel car. They can hardly expect to get a good price when they resell their car. They must worry about after-sale services now that the cars they drive are without authorized certification. The company still fails to offer a relief program for Korean customers, leading us to question how it built its global reputation.
The company is mulling legal action and reapplication for certification in order to stay in the market. But first things first. It must apologize and come up with a compensation package or it will never regain the confidence of Korean consumers.
JoongAng Ilbo, August 3, Page 30