Peter Richardson: Car cheats leave me choked

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Many times in my life have I peered beneath the bonnet of the latest broken-down jalopy upon which I’d unwisely shelled out good money, and many times have I said to myself: “Face it, Peter lad, you haven’t got a clue,” before summoning help from the Trousered Ferret’s resident car repairer, Malcolm the mechanic.

But this week, on the driveway where it lives, I lifted the lid of my exceedingly reliable, gleaming saloon and knew, without recourse to Malcolm’s professional expertise, precisely what I was looking at…

So chuffed was your scribbler about the benefits of being an ex-polluter that I even wrote a self-congratulatory headline: “Reasons to be cheerful – diesel do nicely,” I gloated

One of Volkswagen’s dodgy diesel engines. Thanks, lads.

At the time of writing, the world’s formerly most popular car maker has been reluctant to say precisely which of its European models are affected but if you care to crank up the internet, there are photographs of the offending engine and if I am not the proud owner of one, my name is Frank N Furter.

Apart from being a dead ringer, the letters stamped on the plastic casing give the game away. There’s the VW logo followed by the initials TDI, an easily-remembered sequence if you happen to drive a newish 1.6 or 2-litre diesel motor made by the wheeler dealers of Wolfsburg: VWTDI – Virtually Worthless. Try Dumping It. If there’s a lesson to be learned – above and beyond the rather expensive one that Germany’s finest is having to absorb – it is that the proprietors of newspaper columns should not use their position to, as my granny used to say, come over all smug.

Unfortunately, hindsight reveals, I made just such an error soon after leaving the world of full-time employment three-and-a-bit years ago, when I told my faithful reader that I’d used part of my pension lump sum to purchase a VW Golf with “Bluemotion” technology.

This meant I was now the owner of a motorised steed so environmentally friendly that I no longer had to pay road tax. Result!

So chuffed was your scribbler about the benefits of being an ex-polluter that I even wrote a self-congratulatory headline: “Reasons to be cheerful – diesel do nicely,” I gloated.

Memo to self: Do not compose headlines containing corny puns as diesel

return to bite you on the bum...

So now I’m a fully paid-up member of a not-very exclusive club comprising those of us who have been hit by a double whammy concocted by a manipulative car industry, some of whose constituents use software trickery to get round emissions tests and con consumers into paying more money than they might otherwise intend on buying vehicles that are ostensibly super-friendly to the planet and its people…

And a government which encouraged thousands of motorists to switch to diesels by doling out incentives such as the aforementioned road tax reduction on the grounds that they do not emit as much ozone-damaging CO² as their petrol counterparts.

Nobody mentioned (a) that VW was cheating and (b) diesel fumes may not greatly contribute to global warming but they might well be poisoning the odd passer-by. So now the talk is of diesels being taxed to the hilt, charged more for parking, possibly banned altogether and – from a re-sale point-of-view – being worth marginally less than a supermarket trolley. And while there is also talk of recalls and compensation, I am pretty sure that Sod’s Law will, as usual, be intervening at some stage.

Meanwhile, a curse on Banksy, the street artist who has decided to close down his micky-taking pop-up theme park in Weston-super-Mare.

Dismaland would have made the ideal venue for the Distinctly Disgruntled Diesel Drivers annual convention I was thinking of organising.

Banksy and his fellow artists enticed 150,000 paying visitors to a “bemusement” park full of installations which were said to provide a political commentary on what is wrong with the world.

A car park full of rogue diesels would have been as eloquent a comment on greedy capitalists as anything, I reckon.

And as a bonus, we dismal owners could have taken turns to push our accursed cars off the end of the pier, watching them bob about in the waves and shouting, Ken Dodd-style: “How’s about that for a bit of bluemotion!”

Sorry, I’m hallucinating. It must be the fumes.