Volkswagen Australia and the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) have embarked on a series of heated public exchanges, catalysed by the latter’s recently announced real-world emissions testing program.
As you can read here, the AAA — Australia’s peak body for motoring clubs such as the NRMA and RACV, and their claimed eight million members — earlier this month announced its plan to invest $500,000 on an emissions testing pilot of around 30 vehicles, with the results to be in before year’s end.
“In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal and subsequent concerns raised about other vehicle makers and lab-based emissions testing, the AAA has decided to test the on-road emissions of a number of Australia’s top selling vehicles,” CEO Michael Bradley said.
“It’s fallen to the AAA to do this on behalf of Australian motorists because the Australian Government does no testing to ensure car manufacturers comply with emissions regulations of the Australian Design Rules.”
In response this week, Volkswagen Australia managing director Michael Bartch lit a fire under the saga and slammed the AAA’s program, inferring the idea was a waste of members’ money and little more than grandstanding.
“I’ve watched with interest this, I’m not quite sure how to describe it, coming to the table when the coffee is cold by the AAA,” Bartsch said.
“There’s some very interesting grandstanding to be spending $500k of the NRMA and VACC’s money to run an exhaust emissions testing program. It’s probably someone looking for a cause, considering the protocols that are now being implemented by the responsible authorities under EU jurisdiction in real world and lab testing.”
Volkswagen’s global head, Matthias Muller, recently advocated the idea that emissions tests “as a general principle” would be externally evaluated by third parties in the future, to stop dieselgate MkII happening.
Bartsch added that he believes the debate in Australia needs to be expanded on the emissions issue beyond motoring. Whether this is a ploy to distract, or a viable stance, depends on what side of the battle lines you’re sitting on.
“I have an apartment in Lavender Bay and I watch bunker oil coming out of these liners 24/7. I saw a stat that 50 per cent of trucks in Australia don’t have a catalytic converter, no farming or mine machinery does [either],” he said.
“Some organisations would do far more to focus on where contribution is still needed than coming to a dinner party very late, and a lot of press releases with a lot of personal pronouns makes for a interesting situation.”
In response, the AAA yesterday stepped up its offensive against Volkswagen, stating:
“VW has let down the Australian owners of around 90,000 vehicles. These Australians have faced almost a year of uncertainty in relation to the environmental performance, fuel usage and resale value of their vehicles.”
Rounding out the barrage of armed exchanges this week, Volkswagen Australia has now declined an invitation from the AAA to submit vehicles for judging in this year’s Best Cars competition. The refusal extends to Skoda vehicles.
Bartsch said he believed these awards "lack validity”.
“The AAA’s public statements inspire little confidence in its grasp of fundamental issues," he said. "Moreover, the AAA has become hostile not only to our brands, but to the motor vehicle industry that employs tens of thousands of Australians.
“Volkswagen Group Australia continues to willingly submit its vehicles to judging in awards run by this country’s major media outlets. We enter these with no expectation of winning, but with every confidence in the ability of those organisations to arrive at the best outcomes for the car buying public.”
One feels this pitched battle isn’t over yet. Get your popcorn warmed up.