VW’s Dieselgate Splits Europe in Two

July 4, 2018 | By Sylwia Myśliwska

VW has enjoyed less success convincing Eastern European motorists to have their affected vehicles serviced following the diesel scandal than their Western counterparts – according to a story published in the independent online newspaper, the EU Observer.

Several theories have surfaced which try to explain the reasons for this apparent polarisation. Some believe that the large number of reports of further vehicular failures following the ‘fix’ in West Europe could have influenced those territories in the East to postpone doing the same – encouraging a lower adoption rate. Others believe that the lack of transparency regarding what the fix actually involves is to blame.

The belief that vehicles following the fix become less polluting, and more environmentally friendly, has also been called into question. Again, it is unknown if this uncertainty has influenced the majority of those customers still sitting on the sidelines in East Europe. However, the same not-for-profit publication reported in an earlier story that EU scientists at the Scientific Institute in Italy claimed they had discovered that a VW diesel car tested positive for higher emission levels post-fix than before when the original defeat-device software was masking pollution emissions.

Recent research taken from the EU Commission Report On Consumer Trust has revealed that consumer faith in retailers is at an all-time low in East Europe. This consensus of suspicion could go some way to explain the continental divide in willingness to accept VW’s recall.

As of March 2018, the European Commission reported that there were still two million VW diesel cars operating in Europe whose software has not been updated.

This supports the earlier admission made in December 2017 by VW that they would likely miss their target of recalling all affected vehicles by 2020, which will take the manufacturer over the 5-year period since they publicly acknowledged the existence of the “defeat device” software.

The European Data Journalism Network published the adoption rate of the VW fix in Europe. Among European countries, Romania scored the lowest with only 30% of the VW group cars receiving the fix. Poland was next with 37%, followed by Slovakia at 39%, Croatia 46% and Greece at 46%.

It is worth noting that the results varied slightly depending on the make of diesel car under the VW group umbrella – a canopy which includes Audi, Skoda and Seat. Furthermore, it is also worth bearing in mind that there has been a stark difference in terms of the implementation of the fix among some of the Western European countries. Seven of the nations (Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark, France and Finland) were subject to a mandatory recall of their vehicles, while motorists from the remaining EU countries needed to volunteer to have the fix carried out on their vehicles.

For now, one can only speculate as to how VW may try to improve relations and/or restore it’s customers’ trust levels, particularly within the sizeable geographical cluster of affected motorists in Eastern Europe. Whatever materialises will, no doubt, be watched with keen interest from those affected in the West as well.