Already reeling from the recent diesel emissions scandal, automobile manufacturer Volkswagen is facing additional penalties and class action lawsuits following today's admission on Capitol Hill that many of its most popular models used Soylent Green to increase fuel economy during Environmental Protection Agency tests.
Michael Horn, CEO and President of the Volkswagen Group of America, made the admission while testifying before a House committee this morning. "I'm deeply sorry that, once again, we have broken the trust of our customers and the public. We will not tolerate any such violations." He added, "This time we mean it."
Martin Winterkorn, the former international CEO of Volkswagen who resigned his post due to the emissions scandal, issued another apology through his lawyers in Wolfsburg yesterday. "I am shocked and stunned that such misconduct was possible. I still am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part but I accept responsibility for the irregularities on this issue, too."
Soylent Green is a wafer-like energy source produced by the Soylent Corporation (NASDAQ: SoyC). When Soylent introduced its Green line to consumers, the company marketed it as a more efficient, "plankton-based" alternative to the Soylent classic Red and Yellow. But it was soon prohibited for distribution in the United States after failing to meet standards set by the EPA, FDA, USDA, Health and Human Services, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Justice, the International Council on Clean Transportation, and the International Vegetarian Union.
Volkswagen had wanted to make deeper in-roads in the American market as part of its goal to become the #1 car maker in the world. The German-based automaker sought to meet the EPA's strict "green car" regulations and achieve higher miles-per-gallon ratings by using the controversial energy source during testing. The EPA suspected something was amiss when it became aware of a significant discrepancy in MPG results for Volkswagen cars during tests at its National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Michigan compared to reports of actual road performance for the same models.
When investigators delved into the matter, they discovered each Volkswagen car had been fitted with a cartridge containing a limited supply of Soylent Green. Upon ignition, a quantity of the potent substance was released as an additive into the fuel injection system, producing a significant spike in fuel efficiency that helped Volkswagen models earn inflated ratings across the board. Consumers were not informed about this hidden component, and many Volkswagen owners became confused when the economy of their vehicles appeared to drop off soon after purchase.
"While it is common knowledge the value of any car decreases as soon as it leaves the lot, we admit to wrongdoing and will get to the bottom of how this happened," said Matthias Müller, the newly appointed successor to Winterkorn.
Industry insiders believe Volkswagen engineers first began experimenting with Soylent Green in an attempt to design a new type of hybrid car technology. The Volkswagen group now faces the recall of all Golfs, Jettas, Passats, SportWagens, Tiguans, and Tourags, as well as all Beetles sold after 1973, in addition to some popular Audi and Porsche models, plus possible fines totaling as much as $4 trillion. Following Thursday's admission, shares of Volkswagen plummeted 83.33%.
While stockholders and the entire German automotive industry are bemoaning this second hit suffered by the Volkswagen brand, some observers feel the Soylent Green admission should come as no surprise. "Auto makers have been skirting the regulations for years," says Klaus Brinkbäumer, editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel magazine. "Besides, Volkswagen literally means 'People's Car.' So..." he said with a shrug.