#Dieselgate: Nobody will go to jail

Ah never mind

Ah, never mind

Criminal charges famously have been brought against Volkswagen all over the place, but it looks like VW will escape them all. The noise appears to be part of the usual kabuki dance, and when the theater is over, it’s back to the usual.

Stateside, criminal charges against VW will flounder in a legal “loophole that has largely escaped notice in recent years,” writes the Wall Street Journal. According to the paper, “car companies, with the aid of industry-friendly lawmakers, won a carve-out from criminal penalties in the 1970 Clean Air Act.” Germany is being blamed of having an incestuous relationship with its automakers, but perversions don’t know borders, or so it seems.

Back in Germany, all companies are shielded from criminal charges anyway. Only people can go to jail, companies can’t. In Germany, the law needs to go after individual perpetrators, and most of all, it needs to prove intent. Remember Winterkorn’s statement that he is “not aware of any wrong doing?” Now you know why he said that, probably on advice of his lawyers.

If German authorities go after individuals, their lawyers will use a loophole as big as a barn door, as described to me yesterday by a Wolfsburg insider:

“The law basically requires that emission readings are not exceeded during testing. In normal, highly individual driving, the law does not require that readings stay under the limit. If a manufacturer optimizes the motor management for the emissions test, that can hardly be called fraud. Unethical, maybe. Fraud, no way.”

That line of defense won’t increase your green creds, but it will keep you out of jail.