All cars are guilty. They bear our fault

Volkswagen boss Matthias Müller must often be shocked. Since following up on Martin Winterkorn, who stumbled over the cheating diesel scandal, the bodies have continued to come out. No one took notice of the recent report of a recall for 127,000 cheating Audis, it has become that common. And now animal experiments again with monkeys who inhaled diesel exhaust gases in a closed room. Disgusted, thought Müller, who immediately apologized. You could wait for the first German politicians who demanded Müller’s resignation. Rarely has the reputation of a rock-solid car manufacturer been so dramatically tarnished.

But see: the reputational damage has no negative effect on sales. Last year, Volkswagen sold more than 10.7 million cars, a record. Nobody cares. That is not illogical. A strong image can go a long way. For ten years, Mercedes-Benz built cars that rusted; the group has survived and is making record profits. Yet there is something inconsistent about it. We live in a culture of judgment that publicly judges and condemns people, institutions and companies based on their ethical standards. Politicians on wrong contacts, pension funds on their investments, peoples on their slavery past, pharmaceuticals on profiteering on the backs of patients. We have guilty books, guilty coffee, guilty meat. And guilty cars, tested on defenseless animals.

Yet the car is released with a fright and for this reason: the environment is not of interest to a dog, unless it yields a subsidy. In addition, Volkswagen undoubtedly benefits from the dulling effect of bad news. Morality causes indifference. The customer thinks: it doesn’t matter who I buy from, they are all crooks, just like me. Then greed wins out over principles. And the people want a Golf, the Rolls-Royce of the bourgeoisie. That’s why guilty people buy guilty Volkswagens. Do they exist, innocent cars?

We have a new Golf, reports the importer. Very economical. It runs on gasoline. Quite reassuring. Bring it on.

It is a 1.5 TSI BlueMotion with Sailing function. The engine is switched off at a constant speed between 1,400 and 3,200 rpm, at least in combination with the DSG gearbox. Then he sails, sort of. Active Cylinder Management also deactivates two of the four cylinders at constant speeds of up to 130 kilometers per hour. Both saving measures should lead to an average consumption of 4.8 liters per 100 kilometres, almost 1 in 21, and CO2 emissions of 110 grams per kilometre. Extremely low for a car of its size.

Winter shopping ride

It almost works. On a winter shopping trip of 60 kilometers he already scores 1 out of 19. On the highway, the saving technique appears to work flawlessly. The computer display obediently indicates when the Golf is running on two cylinders. You feel and hear nothing of it, you hear very little of the engine anyway. A little careful with that 130 hp and consumption drops smoothly to around 1 in 20. At normal spring and summer temperatures, the manufacturer should be easy to get.

It is a Comfortline Business. You will do business with such a Golf. Good stuff, I hope. Nothing about his presentation points to ways of doing things that cannot bear the light of day. Fine saving grace, this good piggy bank.

But who’s to say what the ideal son-in-law has up his sleeve? Who tapped the rubber for the tires and for what wages? In which locked rooms did he test run? What justifies the expense? The test car costs 35,000 euros, twelve thousand more than an extremely economical Polo with all desirable amenities on board. What good works could we not have done for twelve grand? A study violin for a needy young musical talent. Giving an entire old people’s home an unforgettable day in Keukenhof. A trio of wells in Burundi. And all that, I take the jargon of the users, for the piece of representativeness that no one sees. Because everyone drives Golf.

Although the TSI would be spotless; all cars are guilty. They wear our blame.

In three years VW can start with a clean slate. Then comes the electric ID, the wave of this century. As long as they don’t crash-test him against the Monkey Rock. well, who cares.