There's no bigger business story in Germany right now than the Volkswagen AG scandal over software-rigged diesel. It's huge. It could bring down the German automaker, itself a symbol of Germany.
VW is in a crisis, caused by its shocking effort to fool American regulators during emissions tests. It's a devastating moment. Volkswagen and NOX emissions. Huge fines. Lawsuits.
Already, VW Chairman Martin Winterkorn has resigned. The automaker is bracing for an onslaught of millions of recalls.
Will it hurt the German auto industry? Beyond VW, I would have to doubt it — unless there are some other carmakers fooling around with too much software. Nein. Say it ain't so, bitte? But seriously, the world-class car companies are the pride of Germany, not to mention a giant employer.
But will the massive VW fraud hurt the broader diesel engine industry? That will be fascinating to watch in the coming months and years. VW sold Americans on “clean diesel” — fuel that, in the United States, costs more than regular gasoline, but gets impressive gas mileage. If this story shines a spotlight on diesel technology, diesel could end up in trouble.
Even the makers of cars powered by diesel who played by the rules will come under close scrutiny. Expect regular media coverage questioning diesel, as the world keeps improving gasoline engines and moves toward hybrids and all-electric cars.
I just bought a Chevy Cruze, and it gets 35 miles a gallon of gas. Not bad for an inexpensive car. Gas is around $2.20 a gallon now in Cleveland, so the driving is practically free. I mean, we could all blast around in weaponized hulking cars like the last Mad Max movie.
And now that I got rear speakers and more power installed, it's time to rock, as we say in America. Fury Road, indeed.
But the diesel engine … what's going to happen with those driverless cars come out? More car brands! What about those Tesla electric cars? What about the Korean automakers expanding market share? The Japanese?
The danger for diesel is getting tied, in the public's mind, to coal. I know they are two different things and have two different environmental impacts, but average people won't know that. You already know that some people don't like plastics, simply because it's synthetic. They do things like mix up PET with polycarbonate.
Lack of general polymer understanding is nothing compared the VW diesel scandal. Expect to be riveted to this story and, for Germans, stunned and even alarmed at what could happen next.
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Some sectors of German industry are chafing over the country's Energiewende movement, which wants to move Germany to a green energy leader.
GKV, the German trade group representing plastics processors has complained that the surcharge on electricity under Energiewende hurts medium and smaller-sized companies — many of the Mittelstand that are a so important to Germany.
GKV is joining forces with other industry groups, asking the government to approve alternative ways of financing to meet the green energy surcharges.
In America, we joke that “green energy” can cost greenbacks. German paper money comes in several colors, so Energiewende could just make the faces of members of the German plastics industry to turn green. On, then there's that VW crisis — Heute krank!
Bregar is a Plastics News senior reporter. Follow him on Twitter @machinerybeat25.