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Corporate Culture in the Automobile Industry

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Volkswagen

Corporate Culture in the Automobile Industry

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)
September 22, 2015

Mr. NELSON. Mr. President, Volkswagen has become part of the lexicon of the American economy, American culture. Volkswagen Beetles, at the time when I was growing up as a kid, were all a part of the America we know and love. Now we find out that Volkswagen for years has been purposely deceiving the American public--for that matter, their customers around the world--on their diesel cars by deceptively telling them what the mileage is on the cars. And oh, by the way, in the United States, because they were supposedly getting great mileage, there was a tax benefit to the purchasers of those vehicles.

What in the world is happening to the American automobile industry and those foreign manufacturers that are selling automobiles here to take advantage of the American automobile-consuming public? It is an outrage that VW would take advantage of its consumers by purposely deceiving them on their mileage on diesel vehicles.

First there was General Motors. Over 100 people died as a result of a defective ignition switch that General Motors did not tell us about, and in the process just recently--last week--announced a fine of $900 million. Where are our U.S. regulatory agencies? What is the Obama administration doing about this in its regulatory agencies? Why are they not dropping the hammer on corporations and corporate executives that are purposely deceiving the American people about faulty automobile products that cause the loss of lives and property? It was General Motors. Then it was Takata airbags, which are in a lot of automobiles but especially in Hondas and Toyotas. We know that a number of people have lost their lives, a number of people have been maimed, and they are driving around with an airbag in the middle of the steering wheel--which now there have been millions and millions of recalls--and in the middle of that steering wheel is an explosive grenade because it hasn't been replaced.

Today, Volkswagen admitted, over the course of the last half dozen years, that they have deceived people on their diesel vehicles by deceptively telling them what the gas mileage was. Has the corporate culture in what is an automobile society shrunk so low that we can't be upfront when our products are defective or when we are trying to gain competitive advantage? I lay this not only on the corporate culture, I lay it at the feet of the U.S. regulatory agencies that ought to be doing their job and ought to be doing it in a forceful way. Then there ought to be some prosecutions, and corporate executives who knew this and have done it ought to be going to jail.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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