Volkswagen is embroiled in a bizarre controversy after Mexican farmers accused the firm of cheating the weather and causing a drought.
The farmers say Volkswagen is using ‘hail cannons’ at its Puebla, Mexico factory to create supersonic shock waves in the atmosphere, to prevent the formation of hailstones.
Volkswagen deployed the technology after a spate of damage to brand new cars by large hailstones. However, the farmers say the system has been set to deploy automatically and has been operating even when there’s no risk of hail.
This has reportedly led to drought conditions around the factory. A farmer’s representative said all rainfall since May has been dispelled, reports AFP. “The sky literally clears and it doesn’t rain.”
Mexico’s rainy season usually begins in May.
Rafael Ramirez, a local environmental official, told AFP: “The company can take other measures to protect its cars, but people here can’t live off anything but their land.
“Volkswagen claims to be an environmentally friendly company, but they’re not showing it.”
Volkswagen has responded by switching off the hail cannon machines’ automatic mode. It’s also installing mesh around the car storage area to protect them from hail storms.
The Puebla, Mexico plant is Volkswagen’s largest production facility outside Germany, building more than 450,000 cars. It makes cars based on the flexible MQB platform, including the Golf, Tiguan and Jetta.