As you may have heard, Volkswagen (VW) recently got into a boatload of trouble with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More specifically, some of its diesel engine cars, branded as “TDI,” are not as clean as VW would like consumers (and the government) to believe. In fact, some of the cars were emitting “40 times the level of pollutants allowed under clean air rules meant to ensure public health is protected,” according to The Guardian. It seems that the computers in the cars were programmed in such a way that they would put out false data pertaining to the cars’ exhausts. Therefore, when the EPA examined the data, what it was examining was bogus.
Given that the fines VW could face reach upwards of $37,500 per car — and there are nearly 500,000 engines involved in the U.S. alone — VW is looking at up to $18 billion in fines. That’s on top of the $7.3 billion the company set aside to fix the problems. And, by the way, VW admits that there are about 11 million cars worldwide that have this deceitful computer programming.
Attempting to get out in front of the issue, VW has ceased sales of its cars with these engines, together with the Audi A3, which is manufactured by a VW subsidiary. Likewise, they are seeking fresh leadership, as CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned from his position over the scandal. VW has admitted that the cars were fitted with these defeat devices, and the company is being very vocal about trying to get to the bottom of the situation.
What business owners can learn is this: When crisis hits, it is crucially important to lead the story. This may well help to blunt or defuse potential litigation. No doubt, VW is going to be seeing a class action lawsuit, and any steps it can take now to alleviate the situation will help it later on in litigation.