爱思英语编者按:来自车辆尾气的氮氧化物和其他肮脏之物的尾气排放造成了大量的提前死亡——一份报告显示,仅美国一国,每年可能达到58000例。因此,本周让大众公司深陷困境的丑闻既非无关紧要的轻罪,也不是无受害人罪行。

A scandal in the motor industry
汽车工业的丑闻

Dirty secrets
肮脏的秘密

Volkswagen's falsification of pollution tests opens the door to a very different car industry
大众在污染检测中的造假行为打开了通向一个截然不同的汽车工业的大门

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EMISSIONS of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other nasties from cars' and lorries' exhausts cause large numbers of early deaths—perhaps 58,000 a year in America alone, one study suggests. So the scandal that has engulfed Volkswagen (VW) this week is no minor misdemeanour or victimless crime. The German carmaker has admitted that it installed software on 11m of its diesel cars worldwide, which allowed them to pass America's stringent NOx-emissions tests. But once the cars were out of the laboratory the software deactivated their emission controls, and they began to spew out fumes at up to 40 times the permitted level. The damage to VW itself is immense. But the events of this week will affect other carmakers, other countries and the future of diesel itself. 

来自车辆尾气的氮氧化物和其他肮脏之物的尾气排放造成了大量的提前死亡——一份报告显示,仅美国一国,每年可能达到58000例。因此,本周让大众公司深陷困境的丑闻既非无关紧要的轻罪,也不是无受害人罪行。这家德国汽车厂商已经承认,在全世界范围内的1100万辆柴油车上安装了允许车辆通过美国严格的氮氧化物排放检测的软件。但是,一俟这些车辆出了实验室,这种软件就停用了其控派功能,开始以超过允许水平40倍的速度排放废气。对于大众公司来说,打击是巨大的。但是,本周的这些事件将影响其他汽车厂商、其他国家和柴油车自身的未来。

Winterkorn is going
文德恩辞职

VW first. Its chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, has resigned, and the company is setting aside €6.5 billion ($7.3 billion) to cover the coming financial hit. But investors fear worse: in the first four trading days since the scandal broke on September 18th, VW's shares fell by one-third, cutting its value by €26 billion. Once all the fines, compensation claims, lawsuits and recall costs have been added up, this debacle could be to the German carmaking giant what Deepwater Horizon was to BP. At least BP's oil-drilling disaster was an accident; this was deliberate. America's Department of Justice is quite right to open a criminal investigation into the company. Other countries should follow South Korea and probe what VW has been up to on their patch. Though few Chinese motorists buy diesel cars, the scandal may prompt its government to tackle the firm for overstating fuel-economy figures for petrol engines.

先说大众。首席执行官马丁·文德恩(马丁·文德恩)已经辞职,公司将预留出65亿欧元(合73亿美元)以覆盖今后的财政损失。但是,投资者担心的是更坏的情况:在丑闻于9月18日爆发后的前四个交易日中,大众股票下跌了三分之一,使其市值减少了260亿美元。一旦全部的罚款、索赔请求、官司和召回等方面的成本被加在一起,这场灾难之于这家德国汽车业巨头可能如同深水地平线之于英国石油。英国石油的钻探灾难起码是一场事故,这件丑闻却是有意为之。美国司法部对其展开刑事调查是非常正确的。其他国家应当效仿韩国并对大众迄今为之的隐瞒行为展开调查。尽管只有少数的中国车主购买了柴油车,但是,这件丑闻可能促使该国政府严惩企业在汽油发动机节油数字方面的夸大行为。

Whether or not Mr Winterkorn bore any personal responsibility for the scandal, it was appropriate that he should lose his job over it. He is an engineer who is famous for his attention to detail; if he didn't know about the deceptive software, he should have. Selling large numbers of “Clean Diesels” was central to VW's scheme for cracking the American market, a weak spot, which in turn was a vital part of the plan to overtake Toyota of Japan as the world's largest carmaker. The grand strategy that Mr Winterkorn had overseen now lies in ruins.

不管文德恩是否对这一丑闻负有个人责任,他应当为此而丢掉工作是适当的。他是一位因为注重细节而出名的工程师;如果他之前不了解这种欺骗性的软件,后来也应该知道。销售大量“清洁柴油车”是大众公司敲开疲软的美国市场的计划的核心,而这个计划又是超越日本丰田公司成为世界最大车企计划的一个关键部分。如今,文德恩曾经监督的这个宏大战略已经彻底完蛋了。

A change at the top, and a hefty fine, must not be the end of the matter. America's prosecutors ought to honour their promise to go after the individuals responsible for corporate crimes, instead of just punishing companies' shareholders by levying big fines. Most of the recent banking scandals have ended not in the courtroom, but in opaque settlements and large fines. Earlier this month the Department of Justice announced a $900m settlement with GM, America's largest carmaker, for failing to recall cars with an ignition-switch defect blamed for crashes which killed at least 124 people and injured 275. Prosecutors said (unnamed) managers at GM had knowingly ignored the potentially deadly effects of the fault, and put profit before safety. Yet they announced no charges.

高层变更、天价罚款绝对不能成为这件事的终点。美国检察官应当信守承诺,追查对企业犯罪负有责任的个人,而不是仅仅通过课以巨额罚款的方式来惩罚企业的股东。近年来的大多数银行丑闻都没有在法庭上了结,而是以不透明的和解和巨额罚款收场。本月早些时候,美国司法部宣布了一项与美国通用汽车的价值9亿美元的和解。此前,这家美国最大的汽车厂商因为没有召回对造成至少124人死亡、275人受伤的撞车事故负有责任的点火缺陷的车辆而被起诉。(匿名)检察官称,通用汽车的工程师曾经有意地忽视了这个错误的潜在致命效应,并且把盈利置于安全之前。但是,他们宣布没有任何[针对个人的]指控。

That has to change—and the authorities know it. In a speech this month, America's deputy attorney-general, Sally Yates, said that from now on, fining businesses would take second place to pursuing criminal and civil charges against individuals. An accused firm will no longer get credit for co-operating with investigations (as VW says it will) unless it gives the feds the names of every manager or employee involved in wrongdoing, and seeks to gather and submit evidence of their personal responsibility. VW is a test of this new approach. But to avoid suspicions of being tougher on foreign firms—as were raised in the BP Deepwater case and in recent banking settlements—the American authorities should also prosecute culpable GM managers.

这种情况必须改变——当局也深知这一点。在本月的一次演讲中,美国副检察长萨莉·耶茨曾指出,从现在起,对企业罚款的做法将会排在寻求针对个人的刑事和民事指控之后。受指控的企业将不再能够得到调查合作的授信,(正如耶茨所称)除非企业将违法行为所涉及的每一位工程师或者雇员的姓名交给联邦政府,同时还要设法收集并提交个人责任的证据。大众公司是这个新政策的一块试金石。但是,为了避免对外国公司更加苛刻的嫌疑——正如在深水地平线案件和近年来的银行和解案中被提出来的那样——美国当局还应当起诉通用公司的有罪工程师。

Yet the biggest effects of the scandal will be felt across the Atlantic. VW's skulduggery raises the question of whether other carmakers have been up to similar tricks, either to meet Europe's laxer standards on NOx emissions or its comparable ones on fuel economy—and hence on emissions of carbon dioxide. BMW and Mercedes, VW's two main German peers, rushed to insist that they had not. However, in Europe, emissions-testing is a farce. The carmakers commission their own tests, and regulators let them indulge in all sorts of shenanigans, such as removing wing mirrors during testing, and taping up the cracks around doors and windows, to reduce drag and thus make the cars burn less fuel. Regulators also tolerate software a bit like VW's, that spots when a car is being tested and switches the engine into “economy” mode. This is why the fuel efficiency European motorists achieve on the road is around 40% short of carmakers’ promises.

然而,这件丑闻的最大影响将在大西洋彼岸被感觉到。大众的造假行为提出了其他车企是否也曾经为达到欧洲在氮氧化物排放方面或是在节油方面的可比标准——以及二氧化碳排放方面的——更为严格的标准而使用了同样的伎俩。大众公司在德国的两家主要对手——宝马公司和梅赛德斯公司已经做出了紧急回应,坚称自己没有这种行为。但是,在欧洲,排放测试是一场闹剧。车企能够自行测试,而且监管者还允许它们沉迷于各种欺骗行为。例如,在测试过程中去除后视镜或是将车门和车窗周围的裂缝录制下来的行为,这些行为都是为了减少拖拉,从而让车辆少烧油。监管者还对类似于大众公司所使用的软件采取了容忍的态度。这些软件能够发现车辆正在接受检测,然后就将发动机转换“节省”模式。这就是为什么欧洲车主在驾驶中所得到的节油性能比车企所承诺的低40%左右的原因。

At least America's regulators, unlike Europe's, sometimes stage their own tests to verify the manufacturers’ findings. But it is time this whole system was swept away and replaced, everywhere, with fully independent testing of cars in realistic driving conditions. Now, with outrage at VW's behaviour at its height, is the moment to act. That would mean overcoming the objections of carmakers. But it also requires European regulators to change their attitudes to diesel, which accounts for half of cars sold on the continent. Diesel vehicles can be very economical on fuel (and thus emit relatively little carbon dioxide) but often at the cost of increased NOx emissions. That trade-off has been decided in diesel's favour by Europe's lousy testing regime and more lenient NOx-emissions standards.

至少美国监管者在这一方面是不同于欧洲同行的,他们时常亲自上阵进行测试,以验证厂商的发现。但是,该是整个体系被完全独立的车辆处于现实驾驶环境中的测试取而代之的时候了。考虑到对于大众行为的愤怒正处高潮,现在就是行动的好时机。这会意味着克服汽车厂商的反对。但是,这也需要欧洲监管者改变他们对于占整个大陆半数销量的柴油车的态度。柴油车能够在燃油方面做到非常节省(因而其排放的二氧化碳也相对较少),但是这经常是以要氮氧化物排放的增加为代价的。两者之间的取舍决定,始终因为欧洲差劲的测试机构和更加宽松的氮氧化物排放标准而有利于柴油车

See no diesel
看不到柴油车

Even if other makers of diesel vehicles have not resorted to the same level of deception as VW, the scandal could mean that these cars struggle to meet standards applied rigorously to both types of emission. Some fear that this may be the “death of diesel”. So be it. There is still scope to improve the venerable petrol engine; and to switch to cleaner cars that run on methane, hydrogen and electricity, or are hybrids. A multi-billion-dollar race is already under way between these various technologies, with makers often betting on several of them as the way to meet emissions targets. If VW's behaviour hastens diesel's death, it may lead at last, after so many false starts, to the beginning of the electric-car age.

即便其他的柴油车制造厂商没有堕落到与大众公司一样水平的欺骗,这件丑闻仍可能意味着,这些柴油车难以满足被严格应用于两种排放方式的标准。有人担心,这可能成为“柴油车的末日”。那就让它成为柴油车的末日吧。但是,仍油余地去改善备受推崇的汽油发动机;仍有余地去转向燃烧甲烷、氢气和电力的更加清洁的汽车,即混合动力车。一场投入达到上千亿美元的竞赛早已在上述这些技术名下展开。其具体的表现就是,车企经常把自己的身家性命都压在了把其中的几项技术作为是满足排放标准的方式上面。如果说大众公司的行为加速了柴油车的死亡,在经历了多次的失败开始后,它最终有可能带来电动汽车时代的开始。