The scandal regarding Volkswagen’s fraudulent disclosure of its vehicles’ fuel consumption and their emissions in order to evade established pollution limits reminds us that attitudes of this sort within the automotive industry are all too common. The company is lying to consumers who believe they are buying something they are not.
This is why EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations must be changed.
The German automaker programmed its diesel-fueled vehicles to recognize when they were being tested and to emit less polluting gas during trials than during everyday use. A small research group at the West Virginia University discovered the flaw by chance – which involved 11 million vehicles around the world, – and reported their findings to the EPA.
Although the Volkswagen case has surprised many, it is just one on a long list of similar frauds performed by the U.S. automotive industry. Between 1972 – when the EPA fined Ford Motor Company for lying about its emissions – and today, Chrysler, General Motors, Hyundai and Kia have been punished for similar deceptions to the one devised by Volkswagen.
In 2013, Consumer Reports found that 55% of hybrid cars and 28% of turbos burned more fuel than the EPA had originally reported. In other cases, negligence or a company’s lies have resulted in the death of drivers and passengers.
There are ways to prevent this. The EPA has announced that they will change their tests to replicate real-life driving conditions and avoid car computers to put out false data. It is also necessary to ban auto companies from performing the tests themselves. Finally, it is important that the executives who orchestrate such frauds are taken to court. Currently, they are exempt from all responsibility under U.S. law; only the company can be fined.
The EPA should also be present at the industry’s laboratories to guarantee compliance with the rules. However, the agency’s budget is being cut by Congress, who sees regulations as a threat to the private sector. Meanwhile, if no oversight exists, this fraud on consumers will continue.