Saturday, September 26, 2015

Satirist Bill Maher: Ads show Volkswagen is 'the first name in clouds of poison gas'

Satirist Bill Maher devoted a segment of his Friday night HBO show to the scandal involving 11 million Volkswagen and Audi cars produced in 2009-15 with "clean-diesel" engines rigged to hide that they pollute far more than the law allows.

A Volkswagen Beetle with the TDI "clean-diesel" engine.


Comedian Bill Maher invoked Germany's Nazi past and the Holocaust in reviewing what he said were old Volkswagen print ads.

The first ad identified "Volkswagen [as] the first name in clouds of poison gas." 

That's an apparent reference to the Zyklon B gas the Nazis used to kill millions of Jews, Gypsies and other undesirable during World War II.

Another said, "We call it the Rabbit because we can't stop screwing you."

See the segment from "Real Time with Bill Maher" by clicking on the following link:

Skit on Volkswagen diesel scandal

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Audi TV ad lampoons Toyota Prius, urges A3 e-tron owners to speed, 'take names'

An Audi TV ad for the A3 e-tron mocks the Toyota Prius, the world's best-selling gas-electric hybrid; people who grow their own food and use solar panels on their homes, and anyone who enjoys peace and quiet over the sound of screeching tires. 


Speeding, screeching tires and a lurid slide are a contradiction in a plug-in hybrid car that is supposed to save gas and be easy on the environment.

But that's the theme of a new TV ad for the Audi A3 e-tron, the first plug-in hybrid from the luxury performance subsidiary of Volkswagen, the giant German automaker.

Especially puzzling is how the commercial ends:

"Plug in and take names."

The owner had just thrown the speeding red hybrid into a slide so he could back into his driveway -- the only way Audi's irresponsible advertising agency could show him plugging in the car (the socket is in the grille).

The man then looks at one of his shocked neighbors and nods his head as if to say, Take that.

Slave labor

Given Audi's dark past and the growing scandal over Volkswagen and Audi turbo-diesel engines that pollute far more than allowed, the "take names" admonition sounds ominous.

Just last year, Audi tried to come to terms with its dark dealings with the Nazis during World War II.

A report commissioned by the company found that its predecessor Auto Union is morally responsible for the deaths of 4,500 slaves who were forced to work in its factories.

And last week, the Obama administration ordered parent company Volkswagen to recall nearly 500,000 VWs and Audis with illegal diesel engines that allow the cars to pollute far more than allowed by the Clean Air Act.

On Tuesday, Volkswagen admitted 11 million diesel cars worldwide were equipped with software designed to cheat on emissions tests, and today, the company CEO resigned.

You might recall that Audi's aerodynamic 5000 sedan also was embroiled in a mid-1980s controversy over sudden unintended acceleration that depressed sales for many years.

'Sportback e-tron'

The 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, which looks like a station wagon, has an MSRP of $37,900, but other trim levels start at $42,000 and $46,800.

For another $30,000, you can get the environmentally friendly Tesla Model S, which combines blinding speed with zero emissions.

The A3 e-tron can travel about 30 miles in electric mode, but after that you'll have to rely on the dirtiest fuel around, gasoline.

And if you drive the e-tron like the moron in the TV ad, you'll waste a lot of gas and pollute far more than drivers who obey the law. See the ad:

Diesel scandal

On Monday, The New York Times reported Volkswagen diesel owners feel betrayed by the company's deception.

"I feel totally ripped off," said John Decker, 55, a photographer who once worked for The Record when it was headquartered in Hackensack, N.J.

"It just reeks of fraud and that they intentionally misled the buyers of their vehicles into thinking they were clean diesels, environmentally good cars, that were fun to drive."

Decker, who owns a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta SportsWagen with a diesel engine, now lives in Sacramento, Calif.

Five U.S. diesel models are affected by the recall, according to the Los Angeles Times:

Jetta (2009-15), Beetle (2009-15), Audi A3 (2009-15), Golf (2009-15) and Passat (2012-15).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Volkswagen, Audi diesel-engine scandal grows to about 11 million cars worldwide

Volkswagen and Audi TDI models, above and below, are equipped with software the automaker installed to cheat U.S. emissions testing.


The potential recall of Volkwagens and Audis with illegal diesel engines that pollute far more than allowed has grown to 11 million worldwide.

The automaker announced today that 11 million of its deisel cars were equipped with software that was used to cheat on emissions tests, according to The New York Times.

"The overwhelming majority are probably in Europe, where the company dominates the market and accounts for more than one of every cars sold," The Times reported.

The German automaker is setting aside the equivalent of half a year's profit -- 6.5 billion euros or about $7.3 billion -- to cover the cost of fixing the cars, paying fines and defending itself against civil lawsuits "from angry customers," the paper said.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Volkswagen to recall almost a half-million VW and Audi vehicles with 2-liter diesel engines sold in the United States from 2009-15.

Instead of introducing more hybrid and pure-electric cars, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz promoted a new generation of so-called clean-diesel engines, which are far cheaper to produce.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

EPA: Volkswagen and Audi 'clean diesels' are an even bigger scam than we thought

Despite cheap gas, unsold Hyundais fill a dealer's lot near the ShopRite in Paramus, N.J., above and below. The dealer also has started renting spaces in another lot under the supermarket for more unsold cars.

In November 2014, Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia agreed to pay a combined $300 million as part of a settlement for overstating vehicle fuel-economy standards on 1.2 million cars -- in what is the largest penalty ever for a violation of the Clean Air Act. No fines have been announced in the new case against Volkswagen.


Now, here is really shocking car news:

Volkswagen, the German auto-making giant, deliberately installed software designed to conceal its diesel engine's emission of the pollutant nitrogen oxide, which contributes to the creation of ozone and smog.

"The pollutants are linked to a range of health problems, including asthma attacks, other respiratory diseases and premature death," according to The New York Times.

On Friday, the Obama administration ordered VW to recall nearly a half-million cars, "saying the automaker illegally installed software in its diesel-powered cars to evade standards for reducing smog."

The recall involves 4-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi vehicles from model years 2009-15.

The Environmental Protection Agency says the car maker admitted installing software that turned off the engines' full emissions-control systems during normal driving.

That allows "the cars to spew as much as 40 times as much pollution as allowed under the Clean Air Act," The Times reported. 

Disengaging the controls can yield better performance in a normally sluggish diesel engine, "including increased torque and acceleration."

The software turned on full controls only when it detected "the car is undergoing its periodic state emissions testing," the newspaper said.

Dog and pony show

In March, Volkswagen executive Marcel Zirwes spoke to writers, public relations people and industry members of the International Motor Press Association in Manhattan.

After cocktails and a lunch of farmed salmon and oysters on the half shell, paid for by Bosch, members heard thousands of words praising a new generation of so-called clean diesel engines.

But none of the executives who spoke claimed "clean diesel" technology was better for the environment than such gas-electric hybrids as the Toyota Prius.

And they said the appeal of diesels over hybrids is that the former is more profitable to automakers while yielding comparable mileage.


Free lunch, hard sell on 'clean diesel'

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Times says if you want a fast, luxurious EV, just wait 5 years for Audi or Porsche

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH: Audi and Porsche showed all-electric concept cars at the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany, above and below, but production models wouldn't go on sale until 2020 -- that's five long years from now.

OH MY ACHING BACK: The low-slung Porsche concept looks like it is aimed at the young and limber. And the 300-mile range would be of limited value to older drivers, who need frequent bathroom breaks.


We're all familiar with the phrase, "Start your engines."

But Tom Voelk, a contributor to The New York Times, really stretches the meaning of "start" in his story from the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany on Monday.

After noting Tesla Motors has had the market for "high-end electric cars" to itself since the Model S went on sale in 2012, Voelk claims:

"But that is changing as other automakers start to introduce their own models [italics added]."


The story is silent on new production models of all-electric cars from Audi and Porsche, both of which are owned by Volkswagen, but does describe two "concepts" that are at least five years away from production.

This is the same kind of hype and exaggeration you see in automakers' TV advertising, but Times readers deserve better.

New Teslas

If Audi and Porsche actually put their EVs on sale in 2020, they will be competing with a Tesla crossover, the Model X, as well as the smaller Model 3 with a range of 200 miles and a price of around $35,000.

A second-generation Tesla Roadster might also be available and could a second-generation Model S be far behind?

Model S still on top

Until then, the Tesla Model S remains the fastest, most luxurious all-electric car you can buy, one that has earned Consumer Reports' highest rating ever.

Unlike the Times and other publications, Consumer Reports' evaluations aren't influenced by advertising or the fleets of free Audis and Porsches available to automobile writers and VIPs. 

Porsche's low-slung Mission E Concept claims an 0-60 time that is already eclipsed by the fastest Tesla Model S.

The German automakers' response to Tesla's zero-emissions cars has been disappointing.

Still, the Mission E Concept shows Porsche learned a great deal from the two Tesla Model S four-door hatchbacks the automaker purchased and shipped to its engineers in Germany.

And given that country's dark past, any future all-electric models from Audi and Porsche likely will meet resistance from affluent Jewish buyers, who rewarded Lexus, Toyota's luxury division, with early and continuing success.

In July, Lexus outsold Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi in the U.S. for the first time.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

2016 Volt and Leaf expose how far auto giants have to go to compete with Tesla

Plugging in my Tesla Model S at home every night has become routine. I've programmed charging to start at 3 a.m., even though my New Jersey utility doesn't have lower, off-peak rates for residential customers like me. Solar panels on my roof mean charging the Model S costs me nothing.


The all-electric 2016 Nissan Leaf will offer two batteries yielding ranges of 84 miles and 107 miles.

The 2016 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid comes with an Achilles heel as standard equipment: 

It still uses gasoline, fouling the air and aggravating climate change.

Major domestic and foreign automakers, especially the Germans, struggle to catch up more than three years after California-based Tesla Motors unveiled the Model S, a luxurious all-electric four-door hatchback with a range of 200-plus miles.

The next, best hope is Chevrolet's pure-electric Bolt concept, which is promised with a range of over 200 miles.

News reports say the Bolt will go into production in October 2016 with a price of $37,500.

The media haven't bothered asking, and GM officials haven't said, how the new all-electric car will be sold for only a couple of thousands dollar more than the upcoming 2016 Volt.

What were Ford and General Motors thinking when they produced the Excursion, above, and a land barge called Buick, below?