Thanks a lot Volkswagen… 


My daughter was always one of “those” kinds of kids… smart, responsible, hard working, involved… a real over-achiever at whatever she did.

She was the kid who won the spelling bee in elementary school… got straight As every year… as a sophomore in high school she was elected Class Treasurer, as a senior she was the Vice President of her class, president of the National Honor Society, captain of the Varsity Dance Team… and to top it all off she was admitted to U.C. Berkeley, the number one public university in the country. 

So, as she was approaching her 16th birthday, she knew she would be getting a car… she was one of “those” kids and she deserved it.  It wasn’t just a gift, my wife and I both felt that she had earned it… and not just a car, but a brand new car… something special.  Not something showy and ridiculous… I think parents that buy their kids new BMWs and the like are borderline insane, and even she didn’t want to have a car that everyone in school would be swooning over.

I started researching new cars that year many months before the big day arrived.  She had mentioned that she might like some sort of smaller Jeep, but I didn’t want her flipping over while going four-wheeling, or anything like that, plus the models of Jeep she liked wouldn’t get great mileage and I was afraid could have maintenance problems after dozens of trips driving from Southern California to Berkeley and back, which is a 400 mile excursion. 

No, I wanted to buy her a car that got great mileage and would last a long time, perhaps all the way through graduate school, but certainly through college.  And I wanted a car that would have better than average resale value, so that when she was finally ready to trade it in on something else, it would still provide a healthy downpayment.

I looked at everything on the market in our price range… Toyotas and Hondas, Chevys and Fords, and the relatively newer brands like Kia and Hyundai.  I thought about stretching for a Volvo because of its reputation for safety, but forgetting the cost, it just seemed too “adult” and not enough “16 year-old girl,” if you know what I mean.


And then a friend suggested I take a look at the VW Jetta TDI.

In truth, I had already been considering a Volkswagen.  I had looked at the CC and the Jetta, my daughter even said she liked both… apparently VW had a good image on campus.  But I knew nothing about the acronym “TDI,” until I showed up at the VW dealer to look into the Jetta TDI for the first time… and quickly fell in love.

The CC was too nice, my daughter decided, but the Jetta TDI offered everything we wanted and more… at a price we could afford.  It promised 40 MPG… and a newly designed, super high tech turbo “clean” diesel that would be likely to run for 400,000 or more miles, which would mean relatively higher resale value.  And it was just all around well-designed… huge trunk, comfortable back seat… sunroof… navigation… awesome stereo… everything today’s really bitchen’ car has.

So, first was the mileage, then the longer life of diesel engines… and then… bonus!  It was cleaner than a Prius, is what our salesperson said.  “Cleaner than a Prius.”   That made it so cool… it seemed to have EVERYTHING.

And, it certainly cost less than a Prius, I can tell you that.  Out the door including tax, title, registration, etc. etc. our brand new Jetta TDI was just gorgeous in glossy black with tan leather… the top of the line model was roughly $28,000.  (A comparable Prius approaches $40k.)

I pictured my daughter driving it half a million miles as she traveled up and down the State of California throughout her higher education years, while she got 40 MPG, with great resale value, and just a really nice car in every way.  I was so happy and proud when we gave it to her with a big bow on top, just like something you might see in a movie.  To say her ‘face lit up’ would be the understatement of the decade at the very least. 

Great milage, long-lasting, great performance, low maintenance, well designed… there was nothing not to love… all that and it was “cleaner than a Prius” too!  What a great car… in fact, I started thinking about buying another TDI this year… the Touareg TDI, which is the company’s mid to large SUV.

My daughter didn’t know much about cars back then, and I don’t think knows that much more today, but I talked with my daughter about the car’s significant value points so she could perhaps one day appreciate them.  I really felt like I was doing THE RIGHT THING in all regards.

And so, for the next four years, I was secure in the knowledge that I had done well… that my daughter had the RIGHT car with the right options… case closed.

Until last week… 

Last week, when the news of Volkswagen’s malfeasance came into my life… arriving much like a tsunami  comes to an island’s shores… I discovered that it was all just one enormous lie.  A total fabrication.  Nothing to it… just a software workaround to evade emissions testing standards.  No big deal, and now I’m sure they all have done similar things in the past because I don’t think the clowns at VW are capable of having invented the fraud. 

They all must do it.  Why?  For the money, that’s why.  How droll.

Sometimes they get caught and other times not.  This time they got caught.  And now my daughter, if I’m to believe what’s being reported, is driving around in a car that’s the polar opposite of clean or green.  It’s killing people it’s so noxious… it’s a car that no one will want to buy thus slashing its resale value… and once they “fix” whatever it is they engineered around in order to hide their lie about being “clean diesel,” she could find herself driving the equivalent of a four-door lawn mower with a sunroof and nav.

Thanks a lot Volkswagen.  You have just managed to do something I didn’t realize was even possible… you actually managed to lower my trust in corporations and faith in government regulators as to their ability to actually regulate anything.  Prior to last week’s news that VW had simply lied about… well, everything having to do with their car’s emissions, I would have thought my level of trust in corporations and confidence in my government’s abilities was pretty much at an all time low… but I would have been wrong.


Could it be that VW executives learned how to behave from the Wall Street banksters?

Think about what went on in 2008 on Wall Street.  The investment bankers manufactured, packaged, marketed, sold and totally lied about their own products… only instead of TDIs they used the acronym “RMBSs,” for Residential Mortgage Backed Securities. 

They said their RMBSs and related derivatives were “clean” too, but they had found ways to use their own internal software to hide their toxicity so that they could get ratings agencies to rate their products triple A… as if they were the cleanest and greenest of them all.  Insurance companies, pension plans and countless others bought their RMBSs and found… much like is now the case with VW… that they had been duped.

A toxic asset is a toxic asset, is it not?  I mean, didn’t I just discover that my daughter is driving VW’s version of a toxic asset?  Instead of selling me the car based on a triple A rating, they used a different metric… emissions scores… measurements of how clean the car was in terms of impact to our environment.  They said it was cleaner than anyone expected it to be… cleaner than a Prius, of all things… and now they’re saying it’s dirty to the point of being deadly.

I didn’t buy a car from Volkswagen, I bought into toxic Automotive Driving-Backed Insecurities… I think we should start referring to cars as ADIs… there would be “toxic ADIs” and the opposite category: “Not yet known to be toxic ADIs,” because no automaker should ever be presumed innocent, and no government regulator ever considered competent. 

The value of my toxic ADI/TDI went down last week and it continues to fall, I would imagine, as we wait to hear… hoping against hope… whether there is actually some way to fix the situation, or whether all we can do is wait for sure to be meager settlement checks to arrive after the class action lawsuits settle… and the lawyers involved all get rich.  It’s become a lot like watching a square dance as we go swinging around and around again. 

The banksters almost bankrupted the planet in 2008, but then were promptly bailed out and today are none the worse for wear, and now VW has done the same thing… they learned from the best, after all.  And I’m quite sure as the world’s largest automaker, VW knows that it’s way too big to fail… just like our infamous financial fraudsters were in the end. 

Okay, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, and I certainly won’t be surprised the next time the same thing happens… who knows, maybe next time we’ll learn that Disney has been kidnapping toddlers in order to sell them on the black market.  Yeah, I know… it sounds far fetched, but then a month ago I would have said the same thing about VW lying to the whole world about their cars.


So, what’s next Volkswagen? 

Want my guess as to what will happen next?  Nothing.  That’s right, nothing… at least as far as I’m concerned.  Oh sure, the automaker will have to pay what sounds like a huge fine to the EPA, much like the banks have had to pay seemingly huge fines to the SEC.  But what will those billions mean to me and the 11 million others who own the cars in question?  Not a damn thing.

I’m also sure that VW will have to fix the software that allowed them to fake the results of their cars being tested for emissions, and we’ll see just how much that “fix” will change my car’s gas mileage and/or performance, but at the end of the day, I’m betting that I simply got defrauded and that will be that.  I certainly don’t expect my government to care about such an event… they never have before. 

Personally, I would rather see VW forced to pay the $18 billion to the people who bought their poison spewing cars… and they could give the EPA let’s say… $100,000.  That’s actually more than the agency deserves for doing such a bang up job regulating the emissions tests in the first place.

The EPA, by the way, says they don’t have enough money to pay for emissions testing, so they let the automakers test their own cars.  And to that I can only say that I don’t have the money to test cars before I buy them either.

So, thanks a lot Volkswagen…

It was extra special that my daughter found out about VW’s fraud while sitting in her Public Policy class as a junior at U.C. Berkeley… a place so environmentally conscious that no one even carries plastic water bottles because of how they harm the planet.  Her professor handed out the case to the class, much to her surprise and dismay.

She said she found the whole thing “ironic,” and I agree with her.  It is at the very least ironic. 

Of course, she didn’t just pay more than $30,000 for the irony, so to me it’s a lot more than that.  After surviving the last eight years of overall economic collapse, wasn’t I surprised to find out I was still vulnerable to what Volkswagen might do… and that all of the research I did before buying my daughter the perfect car amounted to nothing.  I would have been better off choosing her car by flipping a coin.

I can’t help but wonder whether my daughter will believe me the next time I recommend something I’ve carefully researched.  I don’t even know if I’ll believe me… next time.

Yeah, thanks a lot Volkswagen.

Mandelman out. 

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