Der Spiegel, Germany’s prestigious weekly news magazine, broke a story today that takes dieselgate to a completely new level and calls into question the idea that Germany could assume the global leadership left by American’s turn inwards and President’s Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change.
Germany’s green and environmental credentials were never as good as the rhetoric suggested, but they received another big dent this Sunday.
According to an internal Volkswagen document sent to the German prosecutor and seen by Der Spiegel, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen itself had been colluding on fiddling exhaust emission levels from diesel engines since the early 1990s in over 1,000 separate meetings in some 60 working groups.
It remains to be seen whether these alleged agreements are illegal under German cartel law, but if confirmed, they have major implications for the German car and export industry and its reputation, with potentially hefty fines and compensation.
The German car industry employs some one million people and is of course a major export earner.
In any event, it is at the very least a public relations disaster. German diesel car owners had already seen the value and resale of their vehicles drop, and instead of contributing to environment protection as they thought, have in fact been pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, in particular nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (NOx).
Germany’s leading newspapers have long argued that on the one hand, the German government is keen on reducing emissions and protecting the environment for the benefit of German and global citizens, while at the same time mollycoddling and pampering the car industry – German chancellor Angela Merkel famously prevailed on the European Union in Brussels to ease restrictions on emissions to protect the German car industry.
It will be very interesting to see if the scandal gains traction and has an impact on the German general election due on 24 September 2017 and the governing coalition of CDU, CSU and SPD. At the very least, the now very weak Green Party should benefit.