Volkswagen is in deep trouble. These 5 points explain the whole unbelievable scandal.

Volkswagen is in deep trouble.

The grimace on this bright red Beetle pretty much says it all:


That is one anxious hatchback. Photo by Emelian Robert Vicol/Pixabay.

The car company is currently embroiled in a scandal that is rocking the United States and Europe.

And it is — to a large extent — bananas.

The coverage has been so scattered, it's hard to get a sense of what, exactly, the hell is going on. Which is a shame because you can basically sum the whole thing up in five admittedly bonkers bullet points:

1. Volkswagen is accused of installing a secret device in millions of cars that allows them to cheat on emissions tests.

This is what diesel exhaust looks like:

Photo by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/Wikimedia Commons.

At first glance it might seem like building a machine that emits a thick, black smoke not unlike the ashen upchuck of a thousand demons belching from the maw of hell might not be super ideal for the environment, generally speaking.

But for years, Volkswagen has been making passenger cars powered with the stuff. Lots and lots of 'em. Passats, Jettas, Beetles, Golfs, Audi A3s — the full fist.

They had lots of good reasons to do so, too. Diesel vehicles often feature better engine performance and fuel economy. Volkswagen argued they were clean enough, and sure enough, year after year, its vehicles passed inspection. But here's the thing:

The whole time customers thought they were getting this?

You're telling me I've finally parallel parked this car, and now it might be recalled? Photo by IFCAR/WIkimedia Commons.

They were actually getting this:


Not pictured: Imperator Furiosa.

According to a blockbuster investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, many Volkswagen on-board computers were programmed with a secret algorithm that can sense when the car is being tested for emissions and lower the output of the engine accordingly. When actual tests were run, Volkswagen's diesel vehicles were spitting out up to 40 times (!!!) more nitrogen oxide than U.S. limits allow.

Initially, everyone thought the device was only installed in a few hundred thousand cars, all in the United States. But Volkswagen has since acknowledged that the modification was made to over 11 million vehicles worldwide.

This is exactly the type of extreme corporate malfeasance that usually results in coverups, denials, counter-denials, counter-coverups, and Matt Damon racing with smoking-gun documents in hand to a meeting with the FBI but Tilda Swinton is already waiting there with a hitman so no one ever finds out except maybe for his estranged ex-lover Jessica Chastain, who is seen opening a mysterious envelope in the very last shot.

"Oh God. Morris. Morris. I believe you, Morris. I finally believe you." Those are the lines Jessica Chastain's agent would — probably — negotiate an extra $300,000 for her to say. Photo by Mladen Antonov/Getty Images.

Yet somehow, none of that happened in this case. Mostly because:

2. The company said, "¯\\_(ツ)_/¯," and basically up and admitted to all of the above.

To recap, the United States government accused Volkswagen of manipulating consumers, hoodwinking regulators, deceiving shareholders, and poisoning the atmosphere our great Mother Earth provided for her children to enjoy for all eternity.

And Volkswagen's response was, essentially, "Yep."

A former Volkswagen executive, attempting to express human emotion. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Or, more specifically, "Yep, uh. Yeah."

The evidence appears to be so rock solid that the company is ... not really denying anything. Either Volkswagen is playing the most head-scratchingly amazing game of 17-dimensional chess anyone has ever played, or they are really, world-historically screwed.

3. The CEO has resigned but claims he didn't know anything.

Until Sept. 23, 2015, the buck at Volkswagen stopped with CEO Martin Winterkorn, seen here, probably watching James Bond struggle to free himself from a glass cage that's slowly running out of oxygen because, well, just look at him. Jeez:

"My plan is absolutely ... breathtaking, Mr. Bond," says Martin Winterkorn — probably. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Winterkorn has denied all knowledge of any wrongdoing, and yet almost immediately stepped down from his post, quietly disappearing into some hedges surrounding VW's Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters, never to be heard from again.

"Into the mists of time, go I," says Martin Winterkorn — almost definitely. Photo by Nigel Jones/Geograph.

We are, I assume, supposed to see Winterkorn's denial as credible. Nevermind that this basically requires us to believe that some employee was sitting around the break room one day, halfheartedly playing Temple Run and thinking, "I've got this incredible idea for a complicated, quasi-legal international scheme that could either save the company or cost us billions and send dozens of our executives to prison. I'll just assume I have the green light."

But OK. We're with you, Marty. You do you.

4. The company has budgeted over $7 billion to deal with the fallout.

According to an NBC News report, Volkswagen has allocated $7.2 billion to "win back the trust of our customers" in the wake of the scandal. Not only is that, in corporate accounting terms, an everloving crapton of money, it's more than the nominal gross domestic product of 43 countries, as this street scene from Guinea-Bissau pretty well illustrates:

Guinea-Bissau would love to win back the trust of its customers, but it's gonna need to spend a hunk of that cash getting this old rusty tank out of the road first. Photo by Mariomassone/Wikimedia Commons.

There are at least two possible explanations for this.

One is that, well, Volkswagen did the math and realized that jacking their tiny, sketchy computers out of a bunch of lightly-used Passats and the ensuing awkward ad buy to admit what they did was really going to cost them.

The other is that Volkswagen is still hiding something they're really, really embarrassed about. Which, for a car company founded by literal Nazis is saying something.

You will enjoy the power steering, yes? Photo via German Federal Archive/Wikimedia Commons.

5. In a really bizarre, messed up way, this is good news for the environment. I know. I know. Just go with me here.

Many argue that here in the U.S., we should always be trying to cut our government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Which is all well and good so far as it goes. Until some jerkwad company decides to start ejecting sooty, greasy, demon smog into the air. And you can't breathe. And you're like, "Uh ... government? You in there?"

"Whew, yeah, uh ... so sorry about that whole thing. Government? You ... OK?" Photo by Yannick Trottier/Wikimedia Commons.

The Volkswagen bust is an example of the Environmental Protection Agency doing what it does best: protecting the hell out of the environment in a way that has not just national but global implications. It makes the decision not to drown the EPA, despite repeated calls to do so, pretty darn sage.

And the best part? We get it on the cheap. The EPA runs the U.S. taxpayer just over $7 billion a year. "Now wait a minute," you might be thinking, "I thought you just said that was a crapload of money." And in car company terms, it is. But in U.S. government terms, it's pocket change. The Department of Defense, for comparison, set us back nearly $500 billion in 2015. You could have 71 EPAs for every one DoD.

Thankfully, we don't need 71. Because, as the Volkswagen saga makes abundantly clear, at the end of the day, one jacked up, 'roided out EPA is plenty good for the Earth.

Gets no love, but amazing in the clutch. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

Let's hope they keep on swinging for the fences.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

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Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

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Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

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Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

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Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Of the millions of Americans breathing a sigh of relief with the ushering in of a new president, one man has a particularly personal and professional reason to exhale.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has spent a good portion of his long, respected career preparing for a pandemic, and unfortunately, the worst one in 100 years hit under the worst possible administration. As part of Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Fauci did what he could to advise the president and share information with the public, but it's been clear for months that the job was made infinitely more difficult than it should have been by anti-science forces within the administration.

To his credit, Dr. Fauci remained politically neutral through it all this past year, totally in keeping with his consistently non-partisan, apolitical approach to his job. Even when the president badmouthed him, blocked him from testifying before the House, and kept him away from press briefings, Fauci took the high road, always keeping his commentary focused on the virus and refusing to step into the political fray.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.