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2015 Man of the Year: Volkswagen

Volkswagen
AP
• December 30, 2015 8:00 am

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You know who else was a strident environmentalist?

Created under historically questionable circumstances in the 1930s, leading German automaker Volkswagen took admirable steps this year to distance itself from eliminationist ideologies by stealthily upping the power of its diesel brands in defiance of politically fashionable worries about "health" or "air quality" or "the environment."

Volkswagen executives worked behind the scenes to deliver higher levels of torque and horsepower to their customers by programming their diesel cars to "cheat" on U.S. emissions tests.

It may have been illegal, but "following orders" from an overweening executive has always been a fraught and morally problematic defense.

It’s estimated that a company recall and future manufacturing changes to comply with Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on diesel emissions will cost VW’s TDI engines more than 10 percent of their horsepower and upwards of 15 percent of their torque.

That’s a whole lot of freedom being snuffed out by bureaucrats gone mad with power.

Reading news coverage and public officials’ statements on the Volkswagen emissions "scandal," you might think that the company was literally killing people. But no, that would be General Motors, where executives—who were aware for years of an ignition defect that has caused at least 124 deaths—got a deferred prosecution deal from the same administration that bailed them out in 2009.

Naturally, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton blasted VW. Her State Department, meanwhile, considered GM’s Uzbek plant for a "corporate excellence" award after the company made a six-figure in-kind contribution to Clinton’s family foundation.

The nanny state flourishes when good men do nothing, but VW, determined to unleash the full might of German engineering, refused let some finger-wagging bureaucrats turn the Autobahn into one long plug-in hybrid charging station.

VW’s Promethean executives worked to bring the (horse)power to the people in defiance of their administrative overlords. For standing athwart history yelling "Halt!", the company itself is a 2015 Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.

Published under: Men of the Year