Why the surprise at VW conning people?

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Quote attributed to New York muralist James De La Vega

Why is anyone remotely surprised that car makers (Volkswagen will not be alone) have sought to deceive everybody over the fuel emissions?

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 09.21.46Adverts like this try to pretend 136g CO2/km is ‘clean’. When a sparrow shits on your head instead of a seagull, you don’t feel pleased about it and pretend it has made you in some way cleaner!

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And when we get reviews like this, we don’t see too many people getting incredulous. Cleaner than my tiny light IQ no less! Wow! How do they do that? Now we know! I like the way that they have dodged using the word Green, instead calling it BlueMotion, which could so easily translate as Tory Shit.

The drive for this particular capitalist con has been the Vehicle Excise Duty framework in this and many other countries that has rated cars on their purported emissions. It has looked like this for the last few years:

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 09.42.58Thus the incentive to get new cars below the 130 g/km threshold and the further drive to get cars for the cost conscious motorist below the 100g/km threshold. This would be all well and good if the system to assess these cars emissions ever had any credibility. Running the tests in laboratories was only ever going to yield unrealistic figures compared to real life driving conditions, but also opened up the process to easy manipulation, as now uncovered with Volkswagen.

But this is nothing new at all. The same has been going on for donkey’s years with fuel consumption figures. We expect them to be ridiculously over optimistic, but they give us some sort of benchmark for relative comparisons. And this is the potential real scandal of the VW story. Have they pulled a stunt that their competitors have missed out on? The industry will be up in arms if that is the case and will seek retribution and vengeance on behalf of their shareholders, not their consumers! But I suspect this not to be the case at all. I suspect that many will have been at it. We shall see.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 09.44.21In any case, as far as this country is concerned, our ‘Greenest Government’ has largely resolved this issue with his recent budget scrapping any green incentive in the Vehicle Excise Duty scheme. This is how it will look from April 2017:

The first year rate is a pathetic gesture to greenwash the gullible, but the reality is that apart from zero emissions full-electric cars, all cars will pay a flat rate £140 per year. For some bizarre reason cars that retail over £40,000 will have a kind of ‘wealth tax’ imposed for 5 years – but this is irrespective of emissions, and once they get older and begin to get more inefficient this surcharge goes. Well done George!

There is, in fact, so much in this story that simply underlines all the established criticisms of capitalism that I could go on and on. Instead, just keep this story in mind as you read this:

Also, please read the attached reply/comment from Doug Rouxel which develops some of these points.

But for those who want a glimpse of what green cars can look like in a capitalist world, if all we did was eradicate the now ancient technology of the internal combustion engine, if only our ‘green’ Tory bullshitters were brave enough, this should keep you satisfied:

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2 thoughts on “Why the surprise at VW conning people?

  1. Douglas Rouxel

    I think to restrict this to a particular wheeze in a particular sector is to miss the big picture – this is something which comes directly from neo-liberal ideology – the new managerialism which has accompanied the various revolutions in the way that people work, live and survive have been driven on the ground by the need to measure and account for activity on the basis of absurdly narrow numerically based measurements – KPI’s in the jargon.

    We see the exact same thing here as we see in education – and in education, there is some pretty compelling arguments that the system has had the same negative impact there as it has done for emissions – with students who look, as a cohort like they are doing better, but are actually doing worse than they could be.

    As you say, this isn’t a surprising consequence – it’s a central tenet of the current ruling ideology, and probably something that people see in their daily lives at work all the time!

    A bloke called Stephen Ball talks about this in an essay on Education called “The Teachers Soul and the terrors of performativity” which draws heavily on Lyotard and Foucault and talks a lot about the OECD and public sector management, but is generally quite prescient across both public and private sector management.

    One of the striking things he talks about is the fact that through this process, it doesn’t just change the way teachers teach – it changes the nature of what education is – and we can see the same thing here – the measurement and classification of low emissions in this narrow performative way has changed what it means for something to have low emissions, only when the sheet slips and we see behind it does that reality become apparent.

    I’ll leave you with a quote:

    “In the hard logic of a performance culture, an organization will only spend money where measurable returns are likely to be achieved. This is the conclusion of the research by Gray et al.(1999) that performance management is most likely to encourage a search for tactical improvements which result in short-term improvements.7In this way, performativity not only engenders cynicism but has social consequences arising from the distribution effort and investment.

    Liked by 1 person


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