What Ordinary Germans Think About VW’s Diesel Emission Scandal

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Volkswagen plant

Volkswagen plant

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The revelation last fall that Volkswagen had intentionally covered up the true emission levels of several diesel-powered cars, including some sold under premium brands Audi and Porsche, came as a shock to many--not least those of us in the media.

The ongoing scandal affects millions of vehicles sold worldwide, though headlines from across the globe indicate that the majority of concern is being voiced by North Americans.

This is understandable, given the lack of affinity for diesel passenger cars in the U.S. and Canada, and the fact that the unlawful deception was first brought to light by U.S. regulators.

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With this in mind, we sought to discover what average people on the street in Germany thought about the scandal.

Why Germany? The country is more closely linked to Volkswagen than any other. VW Group is Germany's largest company by revenue, and one of its biggest employers.

Moreover, diesel is the fuel of choice for more than 50 percent of drivers there, due to various incentives that make it cheaper than gasoline. 

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE

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These are the questions we asked each of six Germans who were willing to share their views:

1) Can you explain, in a sentence or two, your understanding of VW’s emissions cheating scandal?

2) How serious is this issue--for Volkswagen, for German industry, and for car buyers?

3) What do you think of the coverage of the scandal you've seen in Germany’s mainstream press?

4) Will the scandal affect your decision-making when considering a VW Group product in the future?

5) Has the scandal altered your thinking about diesel fuel, and greener alternatives such as hybrid and battery-electric cars?

The responses we received have been translated from the German and (lightly) edited for clarity.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI

2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI

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Gerald, manager at landscaping firm and VW owner

1) Apparently staff at VW knowingly installed diesel filters which hid emission readings that were above the norm. According to VW, the management did not know that engineers had installed these filters.

2) I don’t think the issue is very serious. In six months, no one will be talking about this anymore. I happily drive a VW myself, the latest Mk7 Golf.

3) The German media reports all major news. However, I can’t judge if they did an objective report here because I don’t know that much about the topic.

4) No, because I don’t care what VW did as everyone cheats.

5) No, I will still continue to use diesel and gasoline.

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