Neutral: What If Everyone Is Bad

I’ve had the feeling everyone is bad for a long time. When specifically talking about car companies, it surprises me exactly 0% that more and more manufacturers keep popping up as ‘cheaters’. I think the fact is that we’ve seen evidence FOREVER, that any time you try to regulate an industry and provide specific tests/inspections that they must pass, the cars will be designed specifically to pass the test...

Think about the low-offset driver’s side crash test. Companies would add bumper/sub-structure on the driver’s side, but no the passenger side to get a higher rating but still (attempt, feebly) to keep weight down. Then the IIHS said, ‘well I guess we should test the passenger side too’.

How many times have you heard the debate about EPA certified fuel economy and how that seems to be different than ‘real world’ or ‘Car and Driver tested’ fuel economy?

Now we are surprised that emissions controls on cars is designed to specifically pass the test but not really worry about long term pollution?

I don’t propose to have the right answer, but clearly regulators are going about this wrong. They make the tests very specific becuase, frankly, they are trying to preserve the laboratory environment and too much variation in the testing creates disagreement about the results. In the end though they aren’t as smart as the companies they are trying to regulate and we just now figuring out how much. So for a long time the products have been designed and built to pass the exact test needed to get a sticker and not much else. It seems to me that the regulators and manufacturers need to put their heads together when it comes to product planning and that doesn’t happen. It seems like more of a combative collaboration.

To be fair, I would say that it seemed like sometimes the box gets shrunk too small, too quickly. For example, if I recall correctly, VW put the TDI on hiatus right around the time that the 2007 ultra-low sulfur mandate happened - likely because they couldn’t react to it fast enough to sell what they would try to pass as a ‘legal’ car in the US. Then came back with someting that cheated the testing because they apparently still couldn’t figure it out and since the product plannning and design cycles are measured in years, it would have been even more costly to completely abondon things. That tells me that they didn’t know how to work with regulators collaboratively to find a better solution.

It just seems to me that the industry and regulators as a whole are not pulling on the same rope in the same direction. I have a smart friend who suggested actually taxing the the real-world emissions and don’t worry about trying to do lab testing and get certifications ahead of time. If you want to sell the shittiest, coal rolling pile in the market, fine. However, the customer will pay a $0.50/mile excise on driving that particular model because the real-world emissions is terrible. Now how many of those cars/trucks will people buy and how eager will companies be to build that car/truck? What sort of reputation would a car company have if you knew it was going to more than 4x your registration fees because that company sucked at handling engine emissions?

There is not true incentive for people to buy good, quality vehicles that perform well AND treat the environment well. And if there isn’t incentive for people to buy those types of vehicles there sure as hell isn’t incentive for many companies to build them. There needs to be a better way to account for the true cost of a polluting vehicle (IC AND electric) and that cost needs to be passed on to the users, not the companies. Companies are just supplying the goods, consumers are the ones that push the start button and burn the energy.