SQUASH THE LOVE BUG

Squash The Love Bug
by Paul Morantz
copyright Feb 2016

Ah. Remember those wonderful revolutionary times.–The 1960s. The youth would rise up, band together and save the world. There were 2 symbols. One was the Peace Sign. The other was the Volkswagen emblem– the symbol of the 60s revolution—The People’s car.
In the 50s, the adults all wanted expensive giant Cadillacs – just ask Elvis. So it followed I suppose that their offspring would fall in love with a tiny Beetle produced by Germany’s Volkswagen. The “bug” as it was affectionately called, was inexpensive, cheap to fix, got tremendous gas mileage and was dependable.
How dependable? In Woody Allen’s 1973 science fiction comedy, “Sleeper,” the main character, jazz musician Miles Monroe (Allen) is subjected to cryopreservation without his consent, and not revived for 200 years. When he’s awakened two centuries in the in the future, one of the first things he does is turn the key to his VW and guess what? It starts right up! (And got a big laugh from the audience.)
Seemingly no one ever cared the Bug was a concept of Adolf Hitler, wanting a cheap car to be mass-produced for the new road network in his country. He contracted Ferdinand Porsche in 1934 to build it calling it, “the car for my roads.”
It ultimately caused the original “Beetlemania” and became part and parcel of the mod and groovy new 60’s culture. America so loved the car that Walt Disney made a series of films based around a Love Bug named Herbie that actually was alive and had human feelings. Beetle sales grew into the hundreds of thousands. When the Beetle was at its peak in 1970, VW’s U.S. sales topped out at 570,000 vehicles.
If that wasn’t enough, there was the Volkswagen station wagon that served the middle class purposes that SUVs do today. The small station wagon was a perfect economic family car. And the Volkswagen Van (or Bus) even more symbolized the counterculture. Instead of the Woody’s of the 50s,, the Vans became the surfers vehicles, and the transport for hippies who moved in groups, liked to smoke on the move, camp, or just see America.
Decades later when the new Beetle was introduced the crowds around it at Car Shows were so large it was hard to obtain a view of it. For 50 years a Volkswagen symbol has been a memory of that once great Dylan decade. Those who were a part of it to this day still remember when a VW passes by and still think for the money it remains a good buy.
Now, say it ain’t so. In 2015 did Hitler’s Ghost return to Volkswagen? Or did Herbie do a Bruce Jenner, only changing identity to Stephen King’s Christine.
In September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found many VW cars sold in America contained “defeat device” software in diesel engines that detected when the cars were tested for emissions and then gave false improved results. Meanwhile, the German company had a promotion plan saying it was lowering emissions.
The EPA’s findings covered 482,000 cars in the US only, including the VW-manufactured Audi A3, and the VW models Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat. VW has admitted about 11 million cars worldwide are fitted with the “defeat device”.
VW has also been accused of modifying software on some Porsche and Audi models. The device switches to a safety mode during testing in which the engine runs below normal power and performance. But back on the road, it reverts and emits nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.
VW is recalling about 9 million cars. There will be fines and lawsuits. Ford and GM once tried to profit from covering up its boo-boos that were going to cause some deaths. History says companies bounce back from these things. Short memories and bankruptcy do-over and the once Flower Car could be back.
Should it? Can a company go too far? According to scientists, polar ice caps are melting faster in the last 20 years than in the last 10,000 and are raising sea levels at an accelerating rate.
We’re not talking this time about exploding gas tanks. We are talking about Doomsday scenarios.
Don’t let Hitler laugh in his grave. Send the message to corporations world-wide. Fight for the earth. Should another Volkswagen ever be purchased? They were great in the 60’s but a message to all industry must be sent. Mess with our world and we will terminate your business. At the very least the company must perform a sufficient penitent act undoing its harm. If not, buy Japanese.
If you can forget Pearl Harbor.
Paul Morantz has been a lawyer practicing in the Westside for over 40 years. His latest book is From Miracle to Madness. He can be reached at paulmorantz@hotmail.com