When news broke that VW had apparently been rigging emissions tests on some of its diesel-powered vehicles, the story was initially difficult to comprehend. The tests are the tests, right? So how would it be possible to doctor the results?

Puts those ads touting “German engineering done the Volkswagen way” in a very different light, doesn’t it?

But when one took a look past the headlines and learned some of the details, the ingenuity appeared nearly as remarkable as the audacity.

What the company did, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was to program vehicles to recognize when they were being tested, and at that moment engage the tightest built-in emissions controls. This allowed them to perform well, but dirty, when out on the road. When the cars weren’t on the test bench, it may as well have been 1955.

If the charges are shown to be accurate as described ā€” and there’s every reason to believe they will be ā€” the automaker has a serious, long-term problem on its hands. And it faces a giant fine. Good. Volkswagen must not be allowed off the hook for such an egregious offense.

What matters first and foremost is to ensure that the rigged vehicles are fixed. All of them. It’s then important to determine how this was allowed to happen. Did a couple of rogue engineers figure out a way to make a dirty car seem clean, or was there widespread knowledge of the deception far up the chain of command?

Another question that quickly comes to mind: Is Volkswagen the only automaker to have been cooking the emissions books, or is it merely the first to have been found out?

We live in an era when it’s common to believe that cheating matters only if you get caught. Otherwise, the wisdom of the deceitful has it, it’s all just a part of the game.

It’s anything but that, of course. When we are talking about health and safety, those who are gaming the system and rigging the test results are putting real people at risk.

The perpetrators must be held accountable, and steps must be taken to ensure that such fraudulence cannot be repeated.

Editorial by Springfield (Mass.) Republican


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