Home » Remember When Audi Ran A Smarmy ‘Green Police’ Super Bowl Ad To Promote Its Cheating Diesel Cars?

Remember When Audi Ran A Smarmy ‘Green Police’ Super Bowl Ad To Promote Its Cheating Diesel Cars?

Green Police Super Bowl
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Sometimes it’s just fun to dunk on the competition. Maybe this weekend I should say spike the ball on the competition but you get the point. That’s what Audi appeared to be doing back in 2010 when it launched a short series of smarmy clean diesel ads at the Superbowl. It touted its “Green Police” as “Protecting and Conserving” around the time the company was perpetrating the massive, environmentally harming emissions cheating scandal we’d come to now know as Dieselgate.

By the time these ads ran, Volkswagen AG already had five different “clean diesels” on sale. They included the VW Jetta, Golf, and Touareg along with the Audi Q7 and, notably, the Audi A3. Leading up to the Super Bowl on February 7th, 2010, the folks over at Audi ran some teasers that hinted about what was coming on the day of the “big game.”

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One of the earliest featured a “Green Police” officer taking a “Bridgeport Police” officer to task over the use of a styrofoam cup. The GP officer goes as far as to call for backup before he’s called off for a “compost infraction” telling the “real” police that it’s their “lucky day.” How heroic. “Green has never felt so right,” reads the button on the commercial.

What else is one to take from such an advert other than the idea that the tiniest of environmental infractions deserve serious punishment? Clearly, this is a bit of fluffery from Audi. At the same time, it plays on the emotions of those on each side of the aisle and just so happens to be playful and fun, too. Audi also featured Green Police ads that have nothing to do with cars.

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In one, an officer decries the use of the “power suck” otherwise known as the power strip. According to the ad, it could reduce CO2 output by over 1,000 pounds if unplugged when not in use.

In a separate Green Police commercial, the presenter comes down hard on folks who use more than a single napkin while consuming several food items including a sloppy joe. If that’s not a red flag about this whole campaign then nothing could be. Who uses a single napkin while eating a SLOPPY Joe?

To put it bluntly, Audi put a lot of thought and intention into this ad campaign. It even went to the trouble of having the band Cheap Trick come up with the theme music. Granted, it’s a cheap riff-off of the band’s song “Dream Police” but what better way to promote something like a “clean diesel” than a song that isn’t what it purports to be?

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The ad that ended up going live during the Super Bowl featured bits of the song and even sillier antics than the teasers.

A man is arrested for using a plastic bag at the grocery store, a home is raided because the owner threw away an everyday battery in the trash, a helicopter spotlights a person about to throw away a banana peel, and another person gets hauled off for using incandescent bulbs. Again, these are intentionally comical situations (and ironic if you think about the fuel it takes to fly a helicopter) but they make a point about how eco-friendly Audi and VW were about to claim to be.

In a long line of stopped cars that looks akin to a DUI checkpoint, one officer tells another that we have a “TDI here…” The other officer simply responds… “Clean Diesel,” looks the driver in the eyes and says “You’re good to go sir.” In a case of what might have been duper’s delight at the top of the VW pyramid, the Super Bowl ad then features just a few seconds of an Audi A3 TDI driving away at full throttle while the screen bears the text “Green Car of the Year.”

Now, more than a decade later, we know just how ridiculous this ad actually was. Throughout the entire history of the Green Car Journal awards only two have ever been rescinded, this one, for the A3 and the one from 2009, the Volkswagen Jetta clean diesel. Those changes were made because Volkswagen and Audi admitted in 2015 that it had developed software to cheat regulations.

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Its cars were capable of detecting when an emissions test was going on and would activate emissions controls only during the test. During normal operation, those controls would deactivate, provide more power, and more pollution as a byproduct. In fact, these vehicles emitted as much as 40x the legal limit of certain pollutants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The folks in the advertising department likely had no idea about the cheating diesel scandal. They put together their best ideas for what they likely believed were sincerely “clean” diesel cars. The results of the ads were even entertaining. The results for the environment and even VW management were far less enjoyable though.

The CEO of VW at the time, Martin Winterkorn stepped down. Volkswagen Audi Group recalled some 11 million cars and faced harsh fines. As a part of the penalties against it, the brand had to pay $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and an additional $2 billion for clean-emissions infrastructure.

That’s how we’ve ended up with the largely faulty and far from optimal Electrify America charging network here in the USA. Hey, at least they’re not a “power suck” when they’re broken down and not working at all.

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Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
5 months ago

The whole “clean diesel” thing was nothing but a Cheap Trick, amirght?

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
5 months ago

Call me a bad guy, but when VW’s diesel gate broke, I thought they did a wonderful job of thinking outside the box. Smokey Yunick would have been proud.

then we found out everyone was doing it. Sigh.

Roofless
Roofless
5 months ago

These commercials are basically how Sean Hannity describes Joe Biden’s platform.

Space
Space
5 months ago
Reply to  Roofless

What?

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
5 months ago
Reply to  Space

Fake facts and bullshit, like Fox News.

Roofless
Roofless
5 months ago
Reply to  Space

The green police are coming to arrest you for not composting! The green police are gonna take away your incandescent light bulbs!

Space
Space
5 months ago
Reply to  Roofless

I’m still confused as I was yesterday but nobody is taking my 100 watt incandescent light bulbs. I need those for very specific reasons.
My animals compost for me.

MtnCamantalope
MtnCamantalope
5 months ago

I bought a 2012 Golf TDI. I loved that car, then she cheated on me.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
5 months ago

It also didn’t help that “Green Police/Grüne Polizei” was a common nickname for the Ordnungspolizei, Germany’s unified national police force in the Nazi era. I remember that being discussed a bit at the time

Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
5 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Oof

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
5 months ago

Thanks for contributing some weekend content, Rivers! These articles are very well written.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
5 months ago

I really hope they also turn out to be fronting Weezer at the same time.

Fred Fedurch
Fred Fedurch
5 months ago

Or, you could just own that s***.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/dxtw7vNHzx8JoSDd6

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
5 months ago

Nope. I’m not into sportsballs or commercials.

I was very interested in a TDI at the time but the stupid high costs of diesel and the even stupider, higher costs of even a used TDI along with the operating costs made sure the maths never came close to working out.

Maybe I should have used VW maths instead.

Last edited 5 months ago by Cheap Bastard
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
5 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I was running old diesel Mercedes at the time and was quite excited about the new clean oil-burners. Then the scandal broke. Between that and the memories of persistent stupid QC issues with my parents’ 87 Golf, I’ve never seriously considered owning a modern VW since. Sad, as my first vehicle was a Westy—and I was allegedly conceived in a Beetle 😉

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
5 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

There is a happy medium – a mid 90’s Passat wagon.

Gotta love 1500 miles on a tank!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
5 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I was making my own quick&dirty fuel for the Mercedes. I wanted a manual VW when I was looking to get into diesels, but running examples cost 3x what I could get an old 126 for. The VW injector pumps weren’t as robust as the MB’s ones were—and, while not a huge deal to fix once out, they were a bit of a pain to remove. In 2 decades of 123s & 126s, I never once had to get into an injector pump.

Add to that the fact that I largely funded my 2nd & 3rd MBs by replacing VW window regulator/motor assemblies at 1/2 shop cost, and the value proposition just wasn’t there for my use case( in 5 MBs, I replaced a window motor once ). Had I needed to do multiple long interstate trips, the VWs would have had more weight on their end of the scale

Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
5 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

On the other hand you’re in a mid-90s Passat

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
5 months ago

As long as the A/C works, the stereo cranks tunes and the 5MT shifts snickity snick I’m good.

There are worse places to be than a 90’s Passat.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
5 months ago

I wanted a Jetta TDI wagon with a stick so badly around that time. The stories about the high pressure fuel pump grenading which wrecked the rest of the fuel system and the super expensive DPF in addition to the usual VW foibles had me on the fence. The nearest dealer was 70 miles away at the time and diesel was often more expensive than premium unleaded. Then another gasser car with identical fuel economy/power and a stick came out with dealers much closer. At $5k cheaper that sealed the deal. No regrets passing on the TDI.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
5 months ago

My Sis had one – which she loved so much that when it was t-boned, she bought another one.
Then the heartbreak of learning it was all a hoax.

She wound up with a high-spec Highlander.
Exactly the type of vehicle she bought the manual Jetta TDI in avoidance of.

“Volkswagen does it – Again!”

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