An Open Letter to Volkswagen Regarding my 2013 Beetle TDI:
Two years ago, I was in the market for a new car that was an “efficient treat”. I test drove several, researched a lot, and found that finding this car was no simple task.
When I came across pictures of the Beetle Fender Edition I instantly fell in love. The affection only grew during the test drive — the sunburst wood dashboard, the all-encompassing sound system, the cool breeze from the sunroof. I was sold… until I found out this tiny vehicle could potentially get only 22 mpg. No matter what the appeals of this car were, I couldn’t justify burning this much fuel.
That’s when your sales guy told me about the Beetle TDI — a car, he said, that “burns so clean, you could breathe from the exhaust pipe,”. I have no reason to think that he didn’t genuinely believe what he was telling me — this is what he was fed in the TDI corporate literature and advertising. This “clean” messaging was everywhere — with a similar concept is seen in your “Diesels are Dirty: Old Wives Tale” commercial currently on YouTube.
On a large “eco-friendly” themed wall graphic, all the details of the excellent “up to 39 miles per gallon” gas mileage were detailed, along with claims of lower emissions and the wonderful things this car did for the planet. During the test drive, the sales guy explained that these were the official MPG ratings, but if you let the car run a bit before driving, you can beat even these standards. My TDI has been consistently over 42 mpg (according to its onboard computer…). I thought I was doing a world of good: just as the advertising still found on your Raleigh dealer’s site, would lead you to believe.
I felt really good about my TDI purchase. Enough to ignore the extra cash I spent on all these “green” benefits. In my mind, this hippie-at-heart had just surpassed all the ultra-green perks of my husband’s hybrid. I offered to drive everywhere, believing my car was the “better-for-the-planet” option. I told everyone about my car. I spoke often of my new brand-loyalty to VW, and how I’d drive my TDI Beetle into the ground.
I had no idea.
My career currently revolves around the promotion of green building technologies. I just took time out of my recent vacation to clean up plastics from the beaches. Caring for the planet, cleaning it up, is something that is important to me — which is why I bought this car, and why I parted with the extra cash to “do good”.
Now, every mile I am driving this car is… let’s just say… “unpleasant”. Shameful.
I spent the money I had for a “green” car, and now I can’t sell it for any sort of real value, because it’s an atrocity. I can’t buy a new car, because my funds are tied up in the TDI. I hear of potential “fixes” coming my way: all hypothesized to reduce fuel economy and, at best, “get the car to pass emissions standards” — but certainly not be “blue” or “green”, as it was advertised. This just isn’t fair. It’s not at all the car I bought or wanted — In fact, I just plain don’t want anything to do with this car.
I also don’t want to be dragged through a court process. I understand you’ve hired the same lawyers that defended BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — yet another dark, hard fact to swallow. Really? Us TDI owners all just want VW to do the right thing. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill example…?
Anyways, I thought long and hard about this. Obviously, simply fixing the car to pass emissions standards doesn’t resolve our issue. The car’s not “clean” or “blue” or “green” or any of the things it was promised to be — it’s simply legal.
I’ve heard guesses that there may be a rebate program to buy another VW vehicle. This, to me, feels like being forced to stay in an abusive marriage. You cheated me, and I shouldn’t be required to stay loyal.
If you were to buy back the car for what I paid for it, so that I could purchase the “green” vehicle I wanted, we’re getting close. I still wouldn’t buy another Volkswagen. I understand your deception has led to my polluting at up to 35 times past the legal rate, and your lack of consideration for the environment — also the trust and relationship with your consumer — is left undealt with in this scenario. Here we’re simply trying to pretend this never happened — but for two years it did.
It is clear we come from different tracks of thought. I value the world we live in over money. You’ve valued money over the world we live in. We’re not going to change each other’s thinking — no amount of data I could send your way would make your corporation really care about its impact on the environment. However, as we agree to disagree on priorities, one fact remains: you had no right to make a mockery of what I believe in. You have tricked me and hundreds of thousands of people like me who care deeply about the environment into driving around emitting worse than all other consumer vehicles on the road. And you got us to pay extra for this. It makes me sick.
I’ve come up with a remedy that could start the healing of Volkswagen’s relationship with it’s customers and the world. If it’s done right.
- Buy back our cars for what we paid for them.
- Donate a substantial amount of money per vehicle towards Clean Air initiatives. Buy a substantial chunk of rainforest to replant. LEED certify all your buildings. Do something that will amaze us, and better the environment in a BIG way. Clean up your mess.
Anything less is just… less. I know I would never purchase a VW again with any less effort made to win me back, and I’m sure there are thousands right along with me. This is a travesty, and it needs to be made right.
A VERY Concerned TDI Customer