Volkswagen dealer making a film about VW diesel scandal

89
Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 6:59 PM

That's because the 66-year-old producer of sixteen films, mostly documentaries, is also a Volkswagen dealer. His best-known film may be the two thousand four brief Sister Rose's Passion, about a nun fighting anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church.

Volkswagen dealer making a film about VW diesel scandal

Film seeks 'to tell the truth'

Filmmaker Steve Kalafer, a three-time Oscar nominee, is at work on a documentary about Volkswagen&#thirty-ninth;s diesel emissions crisis, a project that's near to home.

That's because the 66-year-old producer of sixteen films, mostly documentaries, is also a Volkswagen dealer.

His best-known film may be the two thousand four brief Sister Rose's Passion, about a nun fighting anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church. It was nominated for an School Award and was a prize winner at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The new one is called Backfire: The Volkswagen Fraud of the Century, and Kalafer is living the story himself.

In 39 years as a dealer, Kalafer has seen car companies in crisis before -- such as with the Ford Pinto catastrophe in the one thousand nine hundred seventy and Audi's unintended-acceleration fiasco in the one thousand nine hundred eighty. Those brands eventually recovered, but Kalafer isn't so sure about VW in the wake of its diesel emission crisis.

Kalafer, who's chairman of the 17-franchise Flemington Car & Truck Country that includes a VW dealership in Flemington, N. J., says decisive measures are needed to address the damage inflicted on customers and dealers.

"I started with two gas pumps and a one-car showroom. I've been with all of these manufacturers all of these years," Kalafer said in an interview in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas while the National Automobile Dealers Organization conference was in town. "The reality is that unless these issues are dealt with straightforwardly, honestly and with equity, Volkswagen in hindsight will have destroyed their company."

He says Backfire will examine the issue through the stories of customers, dealers and regulators. Researchers at WV University, who initially discovered the excess emissions coming from VW vehicles in two thousand-fourteenth, will be interviewed, as will former VW executives, Kalafer says.

He's dismayed about how VW's leadership has handled the emissions crisis and is concerned about the brand long term, but he says he's approaching Backfire from the perspective of a filmmaker, not a dealer

"I won't have a point of view," he said. "The participants will."

He won't show up on camera. Although he's been affected by the crisis, Kalafer says a documentary's impact can be lessened when the filmmaker is portion of the story.

He says his films typically examine social issues that Hollywood studios disdain for their Ltd commercial value. Besides the nun who fought anti-Semitism, he's produced documentaries on such topics as political corruption in NJ and an inspirational music teacher.

VW's diesel crisis is still unfolding, and Backfire is distant from finished. The project could show up as an episodic series, such as the hit "Making a Murderer" on Netflix, or as a feature-length film, says Jonathan Kalafer, Steve's son, who also is involved in making the film.

The friendly dealer/filmmaker with a penchant for fine wristwatches insists he's not anti-VW. But he also doesn't mince words about the behavior of VW leaders.

"When I came to Volkswagen [to discuss the film], they said, "Why are you doing this?'" Kalafer said. "I said, "To tell the truth.'"

He says VW has been "silent" on how it plans to compensate diesel customers and dealers.

Kalafer also worries for dealers who made substantial investments in VW franchises, below factory direction, counting on higher U. S. sales volumes that never materialized.

"The worst portion in all of this," he says, are the single-point Volkswagen dealers who have invested their life savings and their family's reputations in VW franchises and stuck around through the automaker's long history of ups and downs in the United States.

To the automaker, those dealers are "no more necessary than a Hershey wrapper after the piece of confection has been consumed," Kalafer said. "They've been thrown in the gutter, meaningless. That hurts me."

The article, “Dealer puts VW crisis on camera” first appeared at Automotive News.

READ ALSO
Loaded Handgun Found In Will Smith's Car

Loaded Handgun Found In Will Smith's Car

The weapon marks the latest twist in the lethal shooting of the retired Saints star during a traffic-related altercation.

71
Pruning Saw Found In Bath Of Dismembered Mum

Pruning Saw Found In Bath Of Dismembered Mum

The 37-year-old suspect says he was so drunk he cannot recall reaching her house "or what transpired when they got there".

66
Police Arrest Man Linked to Paris Store Attack

Police Arrest Man Linked to Paris Store Attack

Authorities suspect Antoine Denevi of heading a weapons trafficking ring that supplied arms to an Islamist militant.

79
Russia Jets&#thirty-nine; &#thirty-nine;Simulated Attack' Close US Ship

Russia Jets&#thirty-nine; &#thirty-nine;Simulated Attack' Close US Ship

The Su-24s flew so near they made "a wake in the water" in what was said to be one of the most aggressive acts in recent memory.

72