Everybody cheats and it’s okay to bend the rules at times. But push it too far, you’ll only land in hot water. Last year, Volkswagen learned it the hard way. It was bent on cracking the US diesel market, and in 2005, a group of wise guys decided to cheat on emissions tests. They knew they were going to flunk, but there wasn’t enough “time or budget” to rebuild diesel engines that would have met the strict US emissions standards. While this group of engineers did find a solution in the end, they figured it was easier to continue fudging the results anyway, rigging their engines with a “defeat device” that helped mask the actual amount of pollutants.  

They thought it was a smart thing to do, but clearly, they didn’t think it through. Lies don’t last, no matter how sophisticated they may be. It wasn’t long before John German, an engineer from Michigan, discovered the foul deed. Roughly 11 million vehicles were affected worldwide. So why did Volkswagen cheat? In 2004, the United States Environmental Protection Agency threw them a surprise with a dramatic change in emissions standards. Everyone knew it was for a good cause, but it proved a challenge for diesel engines out there. While diesel offers way more torque and friendlier mileage, it produces more nitrogen dioxide (more than petrol), the culprit behind acid rain. All Volkswagen wanted was to trump the American diesel market. If only they did it with a little tact and integrity.

You’d think that other automakers would have learned from Volkswagen’s foolish mistake. Nope, not Mitsubishi at the least. The company just admitted to manipulating data in their line of minicars. Cars these small are popular in Japan, given the tight spaces and an ageing population. Mitsubishi has long been crowded by fierce competition like Suzuki and Daihatsu, and you know how it is, if you can’t beat them, you join them. According to Koichi Hatamura, a former engineer from Mazda, Mitsubishi doesn’t have the money or smarts to improve fuel efficiency. So what’s an engineer to do with little budget but high hopes pinned on? Easy, exaggerate the mileage numbers. Some 625,000 vehicles were affected, including the eK, which in partnership was sold by Nissan as the Dayz. 

Once bitten, twice shy, but unfortunately, Mitsubishi’s record isn’t quite clean. It spent more than 20 years hiding away accounts of vehicle defects. Only in 2000 did it decide to spill the beans. Who would have known? And we thought the Japanese was all for pride and quality. 

Then again, it’s a little unreasonable when engineers are pressured to produce results outside a company’s league. One’s got to know its limits, don’t they? Instead of focusing on hybrids or electric cars, Volkswagen wasted millions making its diesel engines legal in the USA, only to run into loggerheads with the diesel-averse continent. As for Mitsubishi, it could have worked harder to fund better technology rather than bluff its way through, which caused a large fall in market share. Both had forgotten the one thing that matters – karma’s a bitch – but it’s so hard to meet stringent environmental standards and maintain great engine performance. It’s a rock and a hard place, so you either make it happen, or not do it at all. Volkswagen and Mitsubishi should have known better, though now the question is, who’s next? There’s more than meets the eye, we’re sure of that.

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