‘I’m Really Rather Cross’ – A VW Owner Speaks Out

Have you been a victim of TDI? Our journalists are waiting.

Ashley Scarpa at the wheel of her well-used 2014 VW Passat yesterday. Image vis The Guardian
Ashley Scarpa at the wheel of her 2014 VW Passat TDI. Image via The Guardian

The author writes:

When we founded Driven to Write, we didn’t exactly begin with a set of guiding principles. Our aim was to provide an alternate voice to the mainstream motoring press and perhaps hold their feet to the fire from time to time. Similarly, ‘Big Auto’ and their well remunerated leaders have frequently felt the sting of our pen. However, one thing we never set out to do was to cause a member of the public to feel belittled and hurt, which is what this piece unintentionally achieved.

My intent was to highlight the manner in which some journalists in pursuing a slant – (in this case Benjamin Preston for the Guardian) – will over-simplify and trivialise not just the larger (and quite serious) story but also the individual quoted in the piece. However, what emerged was rather unkind and unjustifiably snide and left the intended object of the article off the hook entirely.

Having been in contact with Ms. Scarpa – (who was exceptionally gracious) – I felt impelled to set the matter straight. Ashley pointed out her comment regarding her ‘relationship‘ with VW was intended to be ironic. In addition, the appearance of the Golf/Rabbit in the Guardian piece wasn’t so magical after all – it belongs to her. Naturally, it isn’t lost on me that in criticising a professional journalist for distorting the facts for the sake of being clever, I’ve done exactly the same myself. So feeling I have treated a dignified individual rather shabbily I extend sincere apologies to Ms. Scarpa for any distress this piece caused.

Eoin Doyle: 8/10/15

——————————————————————————————————————–

NOx-gate has already extracted a terrible human cost. Friday’s Guardian published one such story. It’s truly shocking.

In light of recent lurid admissions by VW executives over the falsifying of emissions data, I didn’t think I’d find myself sympathising with the perpetrators this early in proceedings. But a piece in Friday’s Guardian left me with a sharp reminder that journalism wears many faces. In an article that looks at the damage to VW’s reputation in the wake of the emissions scandal, the piece profiles Ashley Scarpa, a Florida-based restaurateur and environmental activist.

Ms. Scarpa purchased a US-spec Passat last year, under the misguided apprehension that she was making an informed choice to lower her carbon footprint. But now she’s angry. The article quotes her as saying; “I was partial to VW, and they had a little bit of an edge in the buying process, but that’s all changed… It’s like we’re breaking up. We can either be friends or hate each other. Maybe we’ll even get back together, but not right now.”
Now this deserves a little unpicking. Ms. Scarpa describes her feelings in terms of a broken relationship, which is cute I suppose if you’re part of the instagram generation, but comes across as lacking in emotional intelligence otherwise. She goes on to say; “I hope they make a decision quickly and figure out what to do to make this right… In my opinion, that will make or break our relationship.” Make a decision to do what exactly? Because I really can’t imagine what it would now take to put the relationship on a sounder footing. Might I suggest counselling?

“Lowering my carbon footprint was major for me and was a selling point, so I’m really upset,” she said, adding that she would have to drive to do volunteer work with an organization that helps sea turtles on Florida’s Gulf Coast. “I’m disgusted that I have to drive my polluting vehicle two hours on the freeway to get there.” Oh yes, Ashley saves turtles in her spare time. She’s an angel.

Scrolling down the article, the reader is presented with a photograph of Scarpa behind the wheel of her 2014 Passat. Well, a 2014 Passat anyway. This particular Passat was freshly valeted, and for some unknown reason, had its headlights on, despite it being broad daylight – in Florida, for heaven’s sake. Note too, the lack of windscreen reflection, allowing us to view Ms. Scarpa, looking really rather put out. It’s almost as though the photo was painstakingly choreographed – and meticulously photoshopped – which of course could never happen in the Guardian.

In another impromptu photo, we’re presented with Ashley, standing between her Passat (sporting a ‘Save the Sea Turtles’ tee-shirt) and for some unknown reason, a pristine mark one Golf/Rabbit the photographer just happened to have lying about. Of course, it’s a well documented fact that any competent photographer can pull Rabbits out of most standard camera cases but seriously, what were the chances?

I would point out I have little sympathy for VW’s management who clearly have presided over a venal and reprehensible fraud and deserve to fall on their swords for their pains. I even have some sympathy for VW owners like Ms. Scarpa who clearly feel they’ve been duped. However, articles such as these are equally deserving of our fervent disdain. What such a nakedly cynical piece was doing on a newspaper site like the Guardian raises questions about journalistic standards and who exactly is manipulating the current news agenda. This article made me quite cross. I think I deserve some recompense.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

7 thoughts on “‘I’m Really Rather Cross’ – A VW Owner Speaks Out”

  1. It’s all a load of … People have bought the car because they liked the car first, second it offered great mpg (possibly compared to their previous runner), third because they (in the UK at least) got a good VED rate. Now they’re whining because VW were clever enough to give them what they wanted but not clever enough to keep it that way. As someone on the previous thread pointed out – all manufacturers have different test results compared to the real world results. It’s what happens when you try to scam the scammers .. they eventually find out. The primary scammers being the governments and their green taxation business.

    1. The green taxation raises a lot of questions related to how society makes choices. I think green taxation in principle is as legitimate as a any tax intended to change behaviour. What undermines its legitimacy is when it’s used for ulterior motives such as replacing other taxes or increasing the tax burden absolutely. When voters en masse refused higher taxes but refused the consequences too then green tax was pressed into service to make up the shortfall.

  2. There is much evidence .. not published .. that environmental issues are not related to air pollution, that we have subcontracted our pollution to China and India and happily accept this suggests the fallacy. The fact that the data was manipulated by the University of East Anglia suggests the lie and that it serves only to re-tax the population in other ways. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and clean up our air…. but you’re not going to achieve that with lies and deceit. This cannot be achieved with unfettered consumption … unfortunately consumption is how our lives are driven. Until the basic concept of our lives is altered then I don’t see how the objective can be achieved.
    All that is currently occurring is that the small guys pay the cost. Big guys don’t care about pollution, they still happily jet around, using Range Rovers, heating huge mansions and building massive yachts…. and that includes many of the people who claim that we need to be taxed to be eco friendly.
    On a more general note .. voters would rarely vote against tax if they believed it was being spent for the benefit of all .. including themselves.. but it isn’t. Back to my original point .. people bought these SUV and powerful diesels because they were cheap to run … now it might not be .. they’re whining .. not all .. most of us would simply accept the new taxation and make a new decision next time. You can’t blame VW and the others for doing their best to give the customer what they want .. value for money.

  3. Eóin, having read the article in question on the Guardian app I can see why you’re feeling aggrieved. It’s a product of a freelance journalist specialising in motor industry stories and a freelance professional photographer who has a full suite of lighting equipment and is not afraid to use it. It would be interesting to know whether the story was pitched to the Guardian by the writer and photographer or a commission by the Guardian with the creatives sent out to talk to Ms. Scarpa and build a 900-1000 word story on unhappy VW owners who fit the Guardian demographic, plus images.

    In fairness to the photographer they’ve used outdoor photography techniques that are standard in magazine photography these days, including all the motoring mags. It would not have been too difficult for either the commissioning editor, writer or photographer to source a mk1 Rabbit/Golf from a local source for the photo shoot. It has received 90 comments on the online story, so the editors will probably feel that it did the job in filling out the VW scandal coverage with a bit of local human interest.

  4. As I wrote before, this has all the hallmarks of being whipped up into becoming the next big consumer class-action/ compensation scam. The press smell blood and it’ll become a feeding frenzy. Yes, no question, VW is wrong. However, if it is alone in this but the rest of the industry suffers from this glib, sensationalist and populist journalistic approach, then the fallout in job losses and massive reduction in tax-revenues through slashing of profits will really hurt economies and people around the globe.

  5. As presented in the rather opportunistic Guardian article (which like all journalism doubtless simplifies Ashley’s actual attitude) I find it hard to feel sorry for people who believe so deeply in brand ethics. And the Tooth Fairy? Yes, I did actually have a preconception that, say, VAG and Mercedes were more honourable than some other manufacturers, but only by degree. Presumably the owners who feel let down by VW are now looking for a new automaker to add to their personal portfolio of ethical brands – but which would that be?

    In essence, VW’s crime is no different from knowingly designing your car so that it shows up best in consumption, emission and safety testing, when you know the artificiality of the tests diminishes their meaning in the real world. Of course the difference is one of degree in that that they have designed a system that recognises the specific test situation and actively alters the running of the car.

    If anything good comes from this, it might be the acknowledgement that more realistic testing procedures should be introduced.

  6. If anything good comes from this, it might be the acknowledgement that more realistic testing procedures should be introduced.

    I doubt it Sean, there’s far too much cash being swapped for that to happen, all it will mean is that governements can increase the VED (or equivalent) on these cars. I actually can’t see much changing apart from the tax paid and perhaps a more even flow of production technologies but diesel is still more economical.
    It was only a matter of time that a new emissions regulation was to be introduced to squeeze more out of the consumer. Do we really think that electric will never be taxed properly, currently owners are escaping huge tax costs compared to petrol and have lower vat charges. Do we seriously expect that to continue … even if it can be argued as “greener”?
    No – once take up is reaching a satisfactory point the green tax will rear its head.
    Have we started taxing vaping yet? Got to be a runner at some point. I;m not a smoker of any type I hasten to add.

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