VW’s Been Cheatin’ NASCAR Style

Glenn Dunaway, after winning the very first NASCAR race at a Charlotte dirt track in 1949, was disqualified for running truck springs on his stock car – a very small violation that left a big bad taste in the mouths of the fans. NASCAR quickly realized that nobody wants to see the checkered flag taken away from a death defying racecar driver over a technicality. That’s just bad business and NASCAR knows business almost as well as racing. Maybe even better.

After the Dunaway incident, NASCAR began fining racecar owners who cheat on the mechanical set up of their cars. The driver keeps his checkered flag, the car owner nets out less money from NASCAR, and the fans are happy. Everybody wins. Since then, the list of technical cheaters who won races reads like a NASCAR hall of fame.

If you have not heard, Volkswagen AG just got busted for cheating on its diesel emissions tests here in the USA. According to the EPA, VW installed software in their diesel cars that decreased smog emissions to the legal limit during EPA testing. Once on the road, the software disengaged the emissions controls to increase engine power. That sounds like a trick straight out of Dunaway’s playbook.

When Dunaway was asked about running truck springs on his stock car, rumor has it that he replied, “(Its) just one of them deals.” For VW, the deal is much bigger. Stock prices crashed yesterday. VW’s directors have already set aside $7.2 billion to install new software in around 11 million cars worldwide of which 482,000 are here in the USA. Base on current regulations, the EPA could fine Volkswagen up to $18 billion. The US Justice Department has opened a preliminary criminal investigation, while the news media loops the story in hysteria mode at maximum volume.

Before we all start hyperventilating from the diesels fumes, we should consider some other significant facts. Each workday, the 592,000 employees of Volkswagen AG produce 41,000 cars worldwide. Of those employees, 3,200 of them work just over in Chattanooga. Another 9,500 employees there are supported through VW suppliers. VW has directly invested $1 billion into their Chattanooga facility and produce $1.4 billion in tax revenue to Tennessee.

The USA has the toughest automotive diesel emissions restrictions in the world. The diesel engines in question pass European standards without the trickery. Before the EPA effectively negates the benefit of VW’s facility to East Tennessee’s economy, our Congressional Delegation should demand that President Obama rein in the EPA on this matter. They should suggest that Obama and his EPA administrator take a more NASCAR-like approach to this type of technical cheating. Invite them down to Darlington. Look for a way for everybody to win. BMW and Volvo might appreciate that effort in the future.

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Tommy Stringer