Sorry to say, but this Audi scandal’s long gone as a memory of the ’80s, although the fact is this — this scandal wasn’t even really a scandal, per se, but Audi certainly did take some massive heat for it. Want to know what it was about?
The Audi Scandal of the ’80s: When Cars Drove Wild
We’re of course talking about acceleration, something those Audi vehicles had some trouble with, apparently. Audi very nearly had to exit the American market of the auto industry as a result, much like how Volkswagen might have to regarding their emissions test scandal. However, the scandal was only due to a sucker punch of an exposé when CBS’s “60 Minutes” interviewed Audi owners claiming that their cars would accelerate without drivers putting any pressure on the gas.
Scary thought. Makes one think about those haunted Stephen King cars (“Christine” or “Maximum Overdrive,” anyone?).
Talk about an apparent scam, though, setting off such a panic after Audi went ahead and sold more than 75K cars in the U.S. and facing sales trickle of a measly 12K cars in 1991. But here’s the kicker: the video proved to be a scam all itself as viewers weren’t even told that the Audi car was modified with an air compressor forcing the vehicle into gear so that it would look like it was accelerating uncontrollably. Sneaky.
Still the Damage Was Done Thanks to This Audi Scandal
And it took the automaker nearly 20 years to recover from this obvious Audi scandal, through no fault of their own, though. Even when Audi ran some pretty snotty ads quizzing potential buyers about their cars that “if you can pass this test…. You’re ready for an Audi,” making it seem like buyers wouldn’t know where the gas pedal was, Audi still survived.
And it turned out Audi was absolutely right — tests proved that people would confuse the gas and brake pedals, vindicating the automaker as a continuing competitor in the automotive market. I guess that’s a precursor to the hanging “chad” of Florida voters when Gore ran against Bush? Hmm….