By on August 14, 2018

As part of its penance for pumping untold amounts of smog-causing pollutants into America’s air over the span of roughly six years, Volkswagen paid a steep price. Yes, there was the financial cost of the diesel scandal — a price tag topping $20 billion, covering fines, buybacks, repairs, etc. Then there was the shame, with VW execs issuing public apologies so frequently, you’d think they were congressmen.

As fines and public apologies aren’t that uncommon in the automotive sphere, it’s the third act that must really grind the gears of execs in Wolfsburg. The automaker now has to do something no self-respecting car company would ever do: It has to showcase another company’s products, and not in a bad light.

Electrify America, a VW subsidiary created in 2016 as part of the automaker’s environmental remediation efforts, has an ad out. You remember Electrify America — it’s the initiative the U.S. government forced VW to spend $2 billion on over the course of 10 years. Its aim: to promote zero-emission vehicles, educate the public, and build recharging infrastructure.

One key part of VW’s agreement is that its messages must be brand neutral. Otherwise, it could just showcase the e-Golf and boast about its upcoming I.D. line of electric vehicles. Nope, that won’t fly with the feds.

And so, in Electrify America’s new ad, we see no Volkswagens, at least not at first. And not specifically. Instead, we see products from other automakers. Essentially, it’s an ad touting the virtues of the Chevrolet Bolt while slamming — quite amusingly — Subaru, which fields no electric vehicles.

It opens with an orange Subaru Outback chugging through an arid landscape, smug flannel-and-vest-clothed driver behind the wheel, “Planet Hugger” sticker clinging valiantly to the rear bumper. The theme from The Flintstones reaches our ears. At a stoplight, an orange Bolt pulls alongside, the man’s alter ego behind the wheel. From our speakers comes the unmistakable theme song from The Jetsons, implying this driver, and his car, is highly evolved. The two men exchange glances. Now, it’s the Bolt driver’s turn to look smug.

As the light goes green, the Outback driver looks on, discouraged, as the Bolt rockets away from the stop with barely a whisper. Cut the theme music, and cue the buy-an-EV message. The Bolt then drives past a woman charging her Hyundai Ioniq EV, though, unlike the Bolt, we can’t see the logo on the front of the car. It ends with a group of EVs, filmed from the rear, racing down a darkened highway, presumably towards a glorious, green future. In that group we see the Bolt, a Honda Clarity, Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, and yes, an e-Golf.

When you’ve got the feds standing over you, holding a whip, normal automaker rivalry becomes a thing of the past.

[Image: Electrify America/Plug in to the Present]

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21 Comments on “The Final Humiliation: Volkswagen Forced to Highlight Rivals’ Products...”

  • avatar

    If there was snow or ice on the ground all those EV drivers would be dead while the Outback owner would make it home to his floppy dog and vintage turntable.

    • 0 avatar

      Not if the EVs had winter tires on, which they should if there is snow/ice on the ground.

      Winter tires > AWD

      • 0 avatar

        Yes but I don’t think a percentage great enough to count bothers to swap true snow tires on. That being said, you can have electrified AWD as well… or you know… learn to drive and then not need AWD.

      • 0 avatar

        Yup. I live in the upper midwest and own 2 FWD cars and 2 RWD cars. And a dual sport motorcycle. I have yet gotten stuck with winter tires on, though once out in a field during deer season after 13″ of snow I thought I might get stuck but we got out.

        That said, we do not have winter tires on all the vehicles but take one with winter tires if the weather looks bad.

        The nice thing about winter tires is when you have to stop they help prevent your sliding off the road compared to all seasons on any drivetrain.

  • avatar

    Love to see a chart of the billions spent between R&D, production, marketing etc and EV sales.

    Cancer cure? Pfft.
    Fukushima cleanup? Who needs it?
    Population outstripping resources? We got space, yo.

    • 0 avatar

      Considering a traditional model will be anywhere between $1-$2 billion, and if you’re talking all new manufacturing, upwards of $6 billion – I suspect the answer is “a lot”.

      If you look at the Volkswagen MQB development program, which encompassed completely re-engineered drive trains, suspensions, factories, processes and procedures – the total there is estimated to be anywhere from $35 – $50 billion (with a “B”).

      Of course, that investment is spread across a massive swath of the product line and had the benefit of significantly cutting design time and making all MQB assembly plants completely flexible.

      I suspect that if you totaled the amount of money being invested in EVs across all of the major automakers, the figure has to be close to $75bn.

      • 0 avatar

        Green Economics:

        EVs: $75 billion investment by automakers, average loss of $10K per EV unit sold = the future of transportation?

        Renewables: $5 trillion investment by utilities = triple the cost per Kwh generated = the future of electricity?

        • 0 avatar

          @stingray: again, you’re making claims with absolutely no real data to back up what you are saying. You have no data on what manufacturers are losing or gaining on each EV sold. Nissan is more than likely making profits on the Leaf and the Model 3 makes a profit per vehicle. The Bolt might be profitable too. The Taycan will be very profitable.

          You’re also missing the fact that a major portion of EV research costs are related to batteries and they are in damn near everything at this point. Not just EVs.

          Same with your numbers on renewables, total garbage numbers and nothing but propaganda just like the rest of the misinformation you are are posting.

        • 0 avatar

          …Renewables: $5 trillion investment by utilities = triple the cost per Kwh generated = the future of electricity?…

          SR65 – recall when cell phone calls were a dollar a minute? How much is a call today? Solar systems have plummeted in price and have become much more efficient. So even it the price per KWH is still higher, you can bet that in another 10 years the price will be more than competitive. And that’s even in light of the T-Rumps Administration backward thinking. Like it or not, renewables presently account for 17% of our electrical generation. That number is not going to get any smaller….

      • 0 avatar

        Nice figures, thanks for posting. I suspect a simplified example of what happened was along these lines:

        SHADOWY GOV’T: We want to implement electric vehicles [for nefarious reasons].
        INDUSTRY: But that doesn’t work, there are too many commercial drawbacks.
        SHADOWY GOV’T: We don’t care. Do it or else.
        INDUSTRY: Ok, we’ll generate the R&D monies through a combination of corporate welfare from you and by raising the cost of our existing product lines for subsidy and the proles will pay for it.
        SHADOWY GOV’T: Now you’re getting it.

  • avatar

    The voiceover is so cringeworthy it made me remember that most people are completely clueless to the world outside their <5 year old midsize crossover. Also made me remember to be glad I don't pay for cable to get bombarded with advertising targeted to mouthbreathers.

    • 0 avatar

      I cut the cable cord more than 15 years ago to avoid the mindless crap coming through the tube during programs every 4.5 to 7 minutes and 17 minutes of every hour.

    • 0 avatar

      I dumped cable just over 4 years ago. At first I was kind of lost without it and my DVR. But I’ve adjusted and now if we go somewhere that has cable, I am reminded of why I finally dumped it in the first place – the endless ads and terrible programming, which I thought was good in the past.

  • avatar

    Maybe VW is renting out their advertising space. “Hey GM, we can’t showcase our own vehicles, how much will you pay us to put a Volt in the leading role?”

  • avatar

    From the post

    “untold amounts of smog-causing pollutants”

    The immediate takeaway from this way of phrasing it is that there was so much pollution it could not be measured. But also maybe there was so little pollution (in the scheme of things) that the amount was “untold”.

    What was the actual increased pollution by these diesels during their normal operation cycles? Taking the LA basin as an example has anyone calculated the TDI contribution to overall pollution (number of TDIs X miles driven) compared to the other mobile and fixed pollution sources?

    Also EVs are not really zero emission vehicles they are displaced emission vehicles but that doesn’t fit the meme.

    • 0 avatar

      @volvo: Also EVs are not really zero emission vehicles they are displaced emission vehicles

      So you are saying that electric motors have the same efficiency as an internal combustion engine and a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine is as clean as a natural gas power plant?

      Not every power plant is coal powered with no emissions controls. But, I guess that doesn’t fit with the anti-EV meme.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    As much as I believe VW should be forced to make things right with the diesel scandal, this just seems wrong. It really is the final humiliation.

  • avatar

    There is a serious side to this in that VW hasn’t yet financially compensated rivals who potentially lost sales to them because of their claims. In a way this is a sort of compensation providing you make electric cars. Notably Tesla and Jaguar don’t get a mention, maybe we will see that when an advert features an Audi.

  • avatar

    Nothing says the future more than 1963 cartoon theme songs.

    • 0 avatar

      Well the whole point of the songs went right over your head then. The Flintstones take place in the stoneage, and the Jetsons take place in the future. So when they show the Subaru, the Flintstones song plays, symbolizing that the Subaru is old technology. Then, when the Bolt is on screen, the Jetsons theme plays, symbolizing that its the future. Not that hard to figure out.

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