Indian hero who exposed VW Dieselgate fired from GM job, now back in India

Dieselgate 2

It is not a hidden fact that Volkswagen Group has faced a lot of setbacks due to the Dieselgate scandal. One of the biggest automobile groups in the world, Volkswagen Group has faced fines worth billions of dollars in the past. The latest fine of $599 million on Porsche is one of the multiple fines imposed on the group in various countries. Hemanth Kappanna, an Indian who played a major role in exposing the Dieselgate scam has been fired by General Motors in February.

Indian hero who exposed VW Dieselgate fired from GM job, now back in India
Picture by NYTimes

Hemanth was a part of the team that exposed the German automotive conglomerate’s decade scam to hide the real emissions of the car. Till date, Volkswagen has paid over $33 billion all over the world in fines after the scam was unearthed by the group and in the USA alone, the group has paid over $23 billion.

Mr Kappanna, an Indian-born engineer was a part of the engineering student team in West Virginia that carried out the real world tests on the Volkswagen diesel cars in 2013. He has been in the USA for 17 years according to NYTimes and has completed his studies in the country too. After finishing his doctorate in 2014, Hemanth Kappanna joined General Motors and his most recent role in the company involved communicating with the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr Kappanna communicated with the agency about America’s largest carmaker’s emission technology. However, he was let go by GM last week.

A phone call from Michigan last week informed Mr Kappanna that he is getting fired and the caller also said that there is nothing personal in this decision. GM has been working to cut the workforce and as per company “strategic transformation”, as many as 4,000 G.M. employees have been asked to leave. He has received a severance package that includes the pay of two months and a ticket back to India. Unable to find a job within the 60-day grace period, Hemanth has now returned to Bangalore, which is hometown.

Indian hero who exposed VW Dieselgate fired from GM job, now back in India

In 2013, when the team exposed the scam, Hemanth was a graduate and was studying to get a doctorate degree at West Virginia University in Morgantown. The university is known for its research in automobile emissions and it has a reputation for the same. Mr Kappanna’s director asked him to complete a grant application from Internation Council on Clean Transportation, which is a nonprofit group and was preparing to study the emissions of German cars sold in the country. The proposal from Mr Kappanna won him a $70,000 grant.

The team came up with a unique way to test the real-time emissions and scrutinize the exhaust fumes generated in open-road conditions when the vehicle is on the move. Till then, the cars were only tested in specially made garages which were an easier way of doing things. However, the research team found out that the Volkswagen diesel cars were using special software that altered the emissions when the cars were under test conditions but the software shut down the process to save the fragile emission-controlling unit from wear and tear during regular runs on the open roads. The findings were presented in March 2014 but Volkswagen was not named directly in it. The regulators began an investigation after going through the research and later Volkswagen confessed to having cheat software in 11 million diesel cars sold worldwide and 600,000 of them sold in the USA alone.

Indian hero who exposed VW Dieselgate fired from GM job, now back in India

Currently, two former VW executives are serving prison terms in the USA for playing a role in covering up the emission fraud. Mr Kappanna is proud of playing his role in unmasking VW’s wrongdoings. As for G.M., they said that Kappanna was not related any emission compliance concerns at GM and he was not a USA citizen too. He was one of the three persons who was let go from the team of about 50.