Michael Brandt deals with fraud and deceit on a daily basis. The detective chief superintendent is in charge of white-collar crime in the German city of Bielefeld. He knows that corporate financial manipulation is a common occurrence and he has often helped consumers and small businesses who have been victimized. Now he is one of those who feels cheated.
The reasons for his anger are parked in his garage: A Passat Variant Alltrack, 177 hp, and a Golf Cabriolet, 140 hp. “Two diesel scandals at the same time,” complains Mr. Brandt. “And on top of that, we live in a resort town known for its fresh air.”
It was supposed to be a joke but Mr. Brandt’s laugh has a bitter ring to it. The 60-year-old lives in the district of Lippe, only 124 miles away from Volkswagen’s HQ in Wolfsburg. Mr. Brandt has been driving former VW service cars since 1980. “There was never a problem,” he says.
This all changed on September 19, 2015, when the evening news reported the suspicion of exhaust emissions manipulation by VW in the United States. Three days later, Europe’s largest carmaker admitted it had manipulated 11 million diesel cars worldwide, sending the value of its stock plummeting and slashing the value of the cars in question. As the investigations exposed, due to a software cheating device, the rigged Volkswagens emit higher levels of nitrogen oxide on the road than during laboratory tests.