First-time readers, this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020).  Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution.  More about Revenge Revolution and the author, Entry #1.  List and general description of entries to date. 

Note: most characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.  Profile of characters.  You’ll catch on quickly.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments. 

Scene: coffee shop near office. Jordan meets Matt, a reporter for a major newspaper. Matt interviewed Jordan for an earlier series of articles.  This entry a continuation of #163.

092615_2031_Characters11.pngMatt: “I know we agreed to talk about the book. But during the break a couple more questions about VW came to mind.”

Jordan: “OK, but not too many.”

Matt: “Just in case POTUS’ office might have called you for advice…this is all hypothetical of course…”

Jordan: “Of course.”

vwMatt: “…what would you have told POTUS after hearing the congressional testimony of VW’s head of US operations?”

Jordan: “You mean Michael Horn?”

Matt: “Yes, Mr. Horn.”

Jordan: “Did you ever listen to Car Talk on NPR with Tom and Ray Magliozzi?”

Matt: “All guys listened to Car Talk. Great show.”

TurtleneckJordan: “And what did Tom say when an answer was obviously wrong or farfetched?”

Matt: “B-o-o-o-o-o-gus.”

Jordan: “I think Mr. Horn’s explanation to the congressional committee qualifies as B-O-G-U-S.”

Matt: “Why so?”

Jordan: “Horn, excuse me Mr. Horn, claimed none of the senior management at VW knew about the software program override. Only a couple of rogue engineers were responsible.”

Matt: “What’s wrong with that explanation? GM said only a couple of mid-level engineers knew about the ignition switch design flaw.”

Jordan: “The ignition switch for GM…or any auto company…is what I would call a ‘non-issue’ part. I mean, what’s there to get excited about? Yes, and I know GM should have checked the specifications when the part was redesigned.”

Matt: “But the VW diesel program was much higher profile than some ignition switch. So there would have been more scrutiny. Right?”

Jordan: “VW bet the farm on its new diesel engine technology. VW claimed the new engine technology would meet all emissions standards worldwide without the supplemental spray system used by Mercedes and BMW.”

casino-1374303Matt: “See your point. If the company’s future is riding on making the diesel program successful, the program gets lots of attention and scrutiny.”

Jordan: “VW is a very top-down organization – not unusual for a German company. The chances that a few lower-level engineers initiated the emissions override program without approval from senior management is laughable. Even if they did initiate the solution, how would they hid it from others inside VW and from vendors? And tests at the proving grounds? Someone checked to make sure the override system kicked in when cars were tested for emissions in Europe and in the US. Just think about all the states that test for emissions. The override was designed to work with a range of equipment. And no one knew?”

Matt: “You really think the CEO knew about the software program?”

Jordan: “Here’s what I think. The CEO knew the new diesel engines did not meet emissions standards. And the CEO directed engineering to fix the problem. And this is what doesn’t pass the smell test, the CEO says to the engineers, in effect, ‘Fix the problem but don’t give me any details about the solution.'”

Matt: “The CEO might be technically right claiming he did not know the details.”

gangster-cartoon-clip-art-540pxJordan: “That’s like a mafia don, after telling Guido to take care of so-and-so, claiming he did not know what happened.”

Matt: “At some point, the CEO has to ask, ‘Is the problem fixed? And he asks the follow-up question, ‘Does the solution meet all emissions standards worldwide?”

Jordan: “If the answer is ‘yes, it meets all standards for testing,’ or similar words, then the CEO needs to ask, ‘What about standards while driving?'”

Matt: “It’s easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback and say, ‘you could have…’ or ‘you should have…’ Are you being fair? Are you being a Monday-morning quarterback?”

Jordan: “Matt, the questions I’m asking are so basic that anyone with a brain the size of a pea would ask them. As CEO you bet the future of the entire company on one technology and you expect us to believe you don’t probe to find out if it really works?”

Matt: “His answer doesn’t seem logical.”

money questionJordan: “Here’s another test of my rationale. Tonight tell your wife you are taking all the money out of the 401k’s and other accounts. Then you are going to Las Vegas and play poker because you have a new way beat the odds. Then see how many questions she asks.”

Matt: “I cannot imagine how many. Alright, a couple more questions, then we’ll talk about the book. VW said the fix could take a couple of years. Also, VW said it would not buy back any cars from existing owners. Thoughts?”

Jordan: “More chutzpah from VW. First comment – tell VW and the owners the cars cannot be registered in any state without the fix. Emissions are 40x the target level and a safety and environmental hazard.”

smoke-from-vehicles-clipart-i17Matt: “For VW diesels owners, not being able to register seems unfair.”

Jordan: “VW buys them a new car or provides a rental at no cost until their car meets emissions standards.”

Matt: “VW said it would not buy back any cars.”

Jordan: “What I said to POTUS…hypothetically, of course…was TS. VW knowingly broke the law. And not just one year but 3-4 years. The cars have 40x times allowable emissions. Get VW owners a new car or rental until the problem is fixed. Criminals do not get to make the rules.”

Matt: “I know emissions are a problem but people drive old cars with high emissions. What about your Miata? What about cars from the 1950’s and 1960’s?”

Jordan: “All those cars met emissions standards when introduced. Previous model year cars have always been grandfathered for safety and emissions standards. Beside the number of cars without emissions equipment is small…and owners don’t drive many miles.”

Matt: “Back to the really tough question – criminal intent. Do you charge the VW exec’s with a crime?”

jailJordan: “Absolutely. Some of the guys at the top need to go to jail. I cannot speak about the guilt of Mr. Horn. There were several layers of management above him and he was not calling the shots.”

Matt: “If the US guy is innocent, that means prosecuting through the EC or in German courts. What’s the likelihood of a conviction?”

Jordan: “VW exec’s need to feel real pain. Otherwise they will continue to give the finger to regulators in the US and Europe. My hypothetical suggestion to POTUS was initiate an all-out effort by DOJ, EPA and the state DA’s to bring the VW exec’s to trial. It needs to be a public trial. No plea bargaining. No consent decree with a fine. Make it as painful as possible.”

Matt: “What about saving the VW brand? All the dealers; all the customers and suppliers?”

Egg on FaceJordan: “Cleaning house at the top of VW and jail time for those involved is the only way to save the company.”

Matt: “As the old Brooklyn Dodger fans used to shout, ‘Throw the bums out.'”

(We’ll talk about Matt’s book the next session)