The Fruits of Civilization (44-2) Vehicles


Vehicle makers throughout the world have a long history of producing products with known defects and denying their existence until forced to. General Motors ignored for years problems with ignition switches that ended up claiming 124 lives.

Toyota made cars with unintended acceleration problems that resulted in the company recalling 8.1 million vehicles and paying $1.2 billion to settle a US criminal investigation.

With its cities blanketed in air pollution, the US passed laws in the early 1970s to limit exhausts. This was costly to vehicle makers, who vigorously opposed the legislation.

Complying with clear air regulations can add thousands of dollars to an automobile’s price while diminishing performance that customers want. So, many manufacturers committed fraud on this count. Audi, Caterpillar, Chrysler, Cummins Engine, Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mack Trucks, Nissan, Porsche, Volkswagen, and Volvo were all apprehended engineering their vehicles to evade exhaust pollution laws.

From the 1990s into the 2010s, European manufacturers colluded to limit competition on vehicle emissions technologies, retarding innovation and ensuring the most pollution they might get away with. The companies included BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Volvo/Renault, and a few large parts makers.

Volkswagen has been a repeat offender. It got caught installing temperature-sensitive switches that killed emissions control in 1973.

Then in 2015, VW was found fiddling their diesel cars to pass emissions tests but spew prodigious noxious pollutants while on the road. Unsurprisingly, Volkswagen had lured customers with advertisements that lauded their “clean diesel” technology.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), responsible for monitoring vehicle emissions, was negligent in not testing passenger cars. The EPA instead had focused on makers of trucks and heavy equipment, which had an extensive history of cheating on emissions tests, and whose products generated much greater pollution.

The EPA trusted the auto companies to tell the truth. And the auto companies have proven time and again that they don’t tell the truth. ~ American attorney Dan Becker


Exhausts were not the only facet of fraud in autos in recent decades. Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata was caught selling lethal versions of a product designed to protect auto occupants. To conceal its crime, Takata falsified test reports.