Kempner: Four ways Volkswagen can say it’s sorry

Volkswagen wants to show its remorse over its ugly emissions scandal.

It made dirty polluting vehicles look like they met air quality standards, though in reality the cars weren’t even close. It went on for years, involved millions of vehicles worldwide and appears to be a systemic, engineered deception involving pollution that can injure lungs, particularly those of the young, old and people with health problems. (More pollution can lead to more asthma attacks and emergency room visits.)

So, maybe the company should get creative in volunteering to show empathy and commitment to change. Here are some ideas I suggest VW leaders consider:

  • To publicize the ill effects of bad air, executives could volunteer to be filmed wheezing in an oxygen-deprived chamber for half an hour. (That’s light duty compared to some asthma attacks that can last days.)
  • VW leaders could spend a month working in asthma treatment clinics in poor areas.
  • Don’t want to get hands dirty? VW could open its wallet and pay asthma-related emergency room visits throughout the U.S. for long enough to cover quadruple the amount of profit it stood to gain from its emissions deceptions.
  • The car maker could pay the same amount to convert to electric or propane power every VW vehicle with deceptive emissions software.
AJC columnist Matt Kempner outside Volkswagen's assembly plant in Chattanooga.

AJC columnist Matt Kempner outside Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Chattanooga.

Of course, none of this would take the place of tougher penalties the company and individuals might  face if regulators and courts determine there has been criminal wrongdoing.

Find out more about VW’s controversy and how plays out just over the Georgia line in the nation’s most rah rah community for VW. In the AJC’s latest Unofficial Business column on

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