Cheating device in Volkswagen diesel cars!

In 2016, someone wrote a post on Reddit about their car.

The person’s VW Golf car’s headlamps and bumpers were removed.

Other parts of the car were also taken off.

Then, he drove the car to VW and gave it to them.

In return, VW gave him a cheque that he could deposit in his bank.

This post became viral.

Others started taking parts off their VW brand cars before returning them.

He explained that the VW terms and conditions mentioned that the car had to be in driving condition to be eligible for a buyback.

That’s it.

It did not say anything about missing headlamps, bumpers, panels, etc.

Thousands of people started stripping parts of their cars and returning them to VW – and walking away with a cheque!

They sold the parts they took off their cars separately and made more money.

The cars went on to be stored in giant fields. Lakhs of cars were kept in this manner in different locations in the USA.

VW spent over $10 billion just buying back cars from USA-based customers.

Why did VW buy back cars at such a massive expense? Why was the buyback offered at all?

We have to go back a bit to understand.

In the mid-2000s, Toyota ruled the USA markets. Their hybrid cars were a big success.

VW wanted to challenge them – so they pitched their diesel cars as a better alternative.

Diesel cars are extremely fuel efficient. VW claimed their diesel engines produced far less harmful emissions than others.

In 2008, VW came up with a ‘clean diesel’ marketing campaign to aggressively pit their diesel cars against hybrid cars.

Towards 2009 and 2010, they launched their diesel-engined cars to the American public.

All was great – for some time.

In 2013, a few university students were given a project – to find out how less or more polluting diesel cars actually were.

These students used a few VW diesel cars in different kinds of tests.

They discovered that the cars were giving out harmful emissions – much above the legal limit.

This surprised them because the car models had been approved by the US authorities already.

In 2014, a government body started an investigation into the matter.

What they found was unexpected – and illegal.

VW cars are very technologically advanced. These cars were great. No doubt.

Pollution check is often done when the car is standing in one place.

VW had put in a cheating device in their diesel cars.

This device would detect if the car was moving or stationary – and change engine settings accordingly. It would reduce power. Diesel emissions also reduced with that.

So when it was tested, it showed the car was within pollution limits.

But when it was moving it produced harmful emissions much above the legal limit.

VW had sold lakhs of these cars in the US.

It was ordered to either repair or buy back the cars from its customers at a fair price. Other fines were also imposed. Some VW executives were arrested and court trials started.

And that is how VW ended up spending billions of dollars buying back about 3.5 lakh cars in the USA.

Investigations showed many executives were at fault.

But people all over the world are still wondering – how could a company so big commit a mistake so trivial?

How could they think they would cheat like this and nobody would catch them?

Short-term thinking.

The human brain struggles to see the longer-term picture.

The Human Brain

Human beings are animals. Just like animals, we used to live in jungles.

Cities, roads, countries, etc. are all relatively modern inventions.

Our technology might have advanced – but biologically, we are still pretty much the same as thousands of years ago.

Back then, the risks affecting our lives were different. The rewards were also different.

Everything was short-term. Our life revolved around danger and food.

If we sensed a large animal like a lion or tiger, we had to react extremely fast. We could not take our own sweet time thinking about the approaching lion.

We worried about what we were going to eat today – not what we would eat 1 month later. If we didn’t arrange food immediately, we would die from starvation.

This is why we can think about the short term instinctively and without difficulty.

It comes naturally to us.

But in our modern world where we have technology and civilization, the rules are different.

Our life is a lot less in danger. The chances that we’ll be alive years from now are also much higher now.

Why did the people at VW think they could cheat and nobody would catch them? It was most likely this short-term thinking brain of humans.

They thought about the immediate revenue and profits they would earn from selling lakhs of vehicles.

They did not think that someone would eventually find out.

Make no mistake – there is nothing wrong with short-term thinking. It is necessary in our lives.

It’s just that in our modern world, there are times when we need to not think short term, and think long term.