Red pill or blue pill? (from The Matrix)Enlarge Photo
Things could also get worse at other car companies. In the classic tradition of one cheater ruining things for everyone else*, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration argued for tighter regulation of the auto industry.
Speaking to the press in Novi, Michigan, NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said that the wrongdoings at Volkswagen highlight the need to question every bit of information provided by automakers.
He also said that VW's flouting of U.S. regulations naturally makes NHTSA wonder what other transgressions -- minor and major -- are taking place at other car companies: "[Y]our first question has to be, 'How extensive is it through the whole industry?' You don’t know if it was a unique case or other people doing it."
Technically, of course, NHTSA oversees auto safety, while emissions are the province of the Environmental Protection Agency. No doubt, the duplicitous software that VW designed to improve environmental tests on its diesel vehicles will be the subject of a thorough EPA investigation. However, Rosekind says that there are elements of the case related to fuel economy and even safety that may give NHTSA room to carry out a probe of its own.
To do that, Rosekind & Co. will need a lot more money and more manpower -- two things in short supply at NHTSA. However, given GM's "Switchgate" scandal last year, not to mention the ongoing problems with Takata airbags and Fiat Chrysler Automobile's slow approach to recalls, the feds' investment in public safety would be a wise one.
* In this case, however, it's more like "the one cheater who got caught". We're under no illusions about the rule-bending and rule-breaking that goes on in the auto industry.