Following last year's record number of safety recalls and now Volkswagen's emissions testing debacle, one thing has become clear: The auto industry needs to adopt higher standards for conducting business.
Since 2010, the list of egregious safety failures has included Toyota's unintended acceleration, General Motors' faulty ignition switches and Takata's shrapnel-spraying airbags, each leaving a trail of death and injury. Companies spent billions to fix recalled vehicles. Companies paid fines for not fully disclosing problems.
Now, another black eye for the auto industry: Volkswagen admits it cheated on diesel emissions testing. The German automaker sold 11 million noncompliant vehicles worldwide since 2009.
But what was most shocking was VW's misdeeds were intentional. The company used software to make a diesel run clean only when it detected testing, but dirty the rest of the time.
VW couldn't claim -- as other automakers have -- that violations were caused by mistakes or miscalculations.
Times have changed. U.S. regulators are more willing to slap big fines on violators.
Science is better able to document how pollution harms humans. But automotive companies should be driven by more than just regulatory compliance and avoiding prosecution.
Instead of fighting stricter regulation, the industry should work hard to make cleaner, safer vehicles to keep pace with shifting public attitudes.