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Volkswagen: Lies, Cover Ups, and Average Cars

A scathing trip into capitalism’s more sordid side, greed unchecked and uncontrolled, the show features episodes documenting ill-behaviour by big pharma, cartel banks, payday lenders and most relevantly, Volkswagen.

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Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Catching Hell, Going Clear) has teamed up with Netflix to release a new documentary series called Dirty Money. It is a scathing trip into capitalism’s more sordid side, greed unchecked and uncontrolled, the show features episodes documenting ill-behaviour by big pharma, cartel banks, payday lenders and most relevantly, Volkswagen.

Lies

The scandal is no laughing matter. Much coverage has been given to the fallout of the scandal (including a 7-year jail sentence for former Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt, who was the general manager in charge of VW’s environmental and engineering office), with Volkswagen having been fined some $15 billion dollars. But most importantly, on a more human note, you can see that for some people the trust in the company is forever broken.

Gibney holds back no punches with the documentary. He splices the narrative with Volkswagen commercials proudly proclaiming their “clean” diesel fuel as a near-pollution free alternative for America, while Volkswagen executives (both past and present), are seen spewing lies, playing dumb, and generally being so comically criminal that it’s hard not to want to punch whatever screen you are watching the episode on.

Cover Ups

As a one-time Jetta owner, Gibney angrily says, “Fuck Volkswagen”. And as you watch, you grow increasingly frustrated by Volkswagen’s unbelievable arrogance. From 2008 until 2015 they continually stifled efforts by the EPA and other regulatory bodies by using delaying tactics, fake recalls, and incredibly at one point, tried to say their new diesel tech was actually far cleaner for humans to breathe in than “old” diesel (by testing their noxious diesel on lab-caged monkeys and manipulating the results).

The episode is highly recommended, but to me, the most infuriating thing is that while VW has been hit relatively hard by the scandal (and some of the primary players responsible will see their just comeuppance), their sales and overall standing in the global automotive landscape looks to be relatively unharmed. In fact, as the documentary points out, they continue to be one of, if not the, leading automotive company in the world.

Absolutely infuriating. Yes, because their arrogance, lies and manipulation directly endangers the lives of everyone near of their noxious automobiles, but also because their cars are so distinctly average. On a larger scale I understand that pointing out that their cars are average pales in comparison to their corporate misdeeds, but it’s what I do- and I’ll tell you, I hate Volkswagen automobiles and every single one of them I’ve driven has left me feeling bored, uninspired and utterly confused by their attraction to buyers the world over.

Average Cars

I have recently driven all of these Volkswagen vehicles: Passat sedan, Passat wagon, Jetta, Golf GTI, Golf cabriolet (ugh), Polo (ugh), and Tiguan (uuughhhhhh), and not once, not once, did I feel like I was driving something special. Not once did I think that there’s an aura to the vehicle, intangibles not quantified by numbers and specs. All of their cars feel like they’re designed and built only to appease numbers, matching figures around a German race track, or to play well in television commercials. All comically devoid of personality.

Am I irrational? Yes, maybe, and I’m not even talking about my hatred for Golf drivers (listen guy who is only half a step ahead of Subaru vaping guy, you are no Sabine Schmitz).

Some people may not care that their cars are boring Volkswagens, and to some, the stink of this emissions scandal may wear off in a few years and they’ll forget what the company did. For me at least, my anger at their behaviour is only half of the reason why I won’t buy a Volkswagen. Sure, they are not the only company who have been busted for corporate misdeeds and time will tell if companies outside of the Volkswagen Group will see their comeuppance. But we can be sure of one thing, there is one big fat company that deserves all the derision that comes their way. Hopefully I am not the only one who feels this way, on both a rational and irrational level.

As Alex Gibney so aptly put it, “Fuck Volkswagen”. Fuck Volkswagen for the diesel scandal but also fuck Volkswagen for their average, boring ass cars.

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Rare Ferrari GTO sells for record $70 million

How much money would you pay for the car of your dreams?

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How much money would you pay for the car of your dreams? What about a one-of-a-kind beauty that you see driving past your prestige dealer? How about a rare 1963 Ferrari GTO?

If you are Dave MacNeil, the answer to the latter, is USD $70 million. MacNeil, who is the CEO of automotive weather guard company WeatherTech, shelled out the record amount for a rare Ferrari.

It is no ordinary rare Ferrari of course. While already limited to 39 builds, this particular one, chassis number 4153 GT, is special. The car won the 1964 Tour de France motor race and finished fourth at Le Mans in 1963.

Records Broken

The $70 million paid by MacNeil eclipses the previous record for the Ferrari GTO. In 2013, a GTO was sold for a then record $53 million.

The Ferrari GTO is powered by a 3.0-litre V12 engine and is one of only 39 built between 1962-1964.

MacNeil joins an exclusive group of GTO owners that include Ralph Lauren and Walmart heir Rob Walton.

How much is too much?

When you are in the same tax bracket as the Ralph Laurens and Walmarts of the world, perhaps there really isn’t a price that is too much for a prized automobile. It is truly rarefied air when the cars in your collection exceed seven digits a piece. For the rest of us, it seems utterly ridiculous of course. Collectors however, do see the worth of these incredibly rare vehicles.

How would you rather spend $70 million? I would definitely buy an expensive sports car, but one for considerably less.

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Automotive

Camaro coming to Australia as an automatic only

The Chevrolet Camaro is officially coming to Australia this year as an import from Holden Special Vehicles. Excitement may have been tempered slightly with its expected high price, and its auto-only option.

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With the demise of local manufacturing, Australian buyers looking for grunt outside of expensive European options have flocked to the Ford Mustang. Almost 10,000 ‘Stangs were sold last year, which is enough proof that, while Australians don’t make affordable muscle cars anymore, they still want to buy them.

Holden, without a flagship V8 for the first time in decades, is turning to its parent company GM for a much needed boost. Holden’s performance arm, Holden Special Vehicles, announced earlier that the Chevy Camaro, in its 2SS trim, will be made available this year.

Good News and Bad News

That’s definitely the good news portion of it. While the thrill of locally made, hotted-up Commodores have been put to bed, the Camaro is more than a worthy successor. HSV have announced the specs for the 2SS for Australia, proving that it’ll pack quite the punch to satisfy the cravings of auto enthusiasts and muscle car fans.

The Australian 2SS Camaros will come with a 6.2-litre Gen 5 LT1 V8, packing 454hp (339kW) and 455 ft-lb of torque (617Nm). It will have Brembo brakes, a bi-modal exhaust, tons of technology and a variety of colour options.

So what is bad news here? Well, the Camaros have started arriving in Australia in your factory standard left-hand drive version. They are being converted to right-hand drive by HSV, which will add a hefty bump to the price tag. While no official numbers have been released just yet, speculation is that the price will come in around USD$60,400 (AUD$80,000). That’s almost $20k more than made-for-Australia Mustangs. HSV says they will be looking to keep numbers at 1,000 units a year, well below that of Ford’s current Mustang sales.

Another sticking point for performance enthusiasts is that the Australian Camaros will be available with an automatic transmission only. I know that probably stings, so I’ll let that sink in for a moment. Equipped with paddle shifters, it’ll be mated to an 8-speed auto transmission, which means the Camaro will be based on the outgoing 2018 model, and not the new 2019.

Still a Winner

Time will tell how the factory-backed Camaro will do. European performance cars have done pretty well with automatic transmissions, so it shouldn’t really hurt that much. While on the pricey side, the Camaro will still be far more affordable than an Audi RS or BMW M-series. It is a just a shame that this particular car, one that is aimed at filling in some lofty Commodore shoes, comes a little shackled from the get-go.

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