The Shed’s old hacks wing is envying the boys and girls of the media at the moment.
The VW story is a month of lucky Sundays for a newsroom. Everybody in charge of everything has been cocking it up for years – and every follow-up inquiry suggests that we clearly haven’t heard the half of it yet.
For once, the press looks heroic while enjoying delivering good kickings all round.
But the media, and politicians, encouraged a smoke and mirrors solution to pollution problems according to a couple of letters in the Telegraph, which is often the place to find food for thought on a fashionable crisis …
SIR – As a former sales executive in the oil and gas industries, I recall that the golden rule when setting targets for the sales force was that they should be difficult, but not impossible, to achieve.
If they were unachievable then the sales people would be demoralised and would either give up or resort to subterfuge. It seems that government bureaucrats set nitrogen dioxide emissions targets that were unrealistic, leading Volkswagen to set up a “defeat device” system that would reduce emissions to the specified level for the duration of the testing procedure.
The key question is this: did Volkswagen executives tell the officials that the emissions target was unachievable? Or did they meekly accept the target and then find a way to circumvent it?
SIR – James Dyson has advised German engineers to scrap rules for real Vorsprung durch Technik. He is right. Those who cannot innovate, regulate.
In the Eighties, the motor industry was pleading for time to complete development of an entirely new range of engine designs that would eradicate most, if not all, dangerous emissions. General Motors in particular had made significant advances.
The regulators did not wait, however, and decreed that all engines should be fitted with catalytic converters. Consequently further research investment was lost, and we are still using engine designs that are essentially no different to those of the Twenties.
Huby, North Yorkshire
Yesterday, the Guardian started to further explore this angle of good intentions creating disastrous results rather than being thwarted by corporate evil …