Volkswagen is curbing the use of hail cannons outside its factory in Puebla, Mexico, after the automaker was accused by local farmers of causing a drought in the region, leading to heavy losses of crops.
The automaker used the cannons to protect Volkswagen vehicles from hailstone damage. The devices emit shock waves into the sky, which are believed to prevent the chunks of ice from forming, but there’s a lack of scientific evidence that the cannons actually impact weather conditions and minimize hail, and their legitimacy has long been criticized. Still, farmers in Puebla claim that the cannons have led to a lack of much-needed rainfall.
“Volkswagen Mexico is committed to maintaining good relationships and open dialogue with our neighboring communities,” the company told The Washington Post in a statement Friday. “After meeting with local authorities about how to protect vehicles from hailstorms at our Puebla, Mexico, factory, we will suspend the automatic operation of anti-hail sonic devices near our vehicle storage yards and will only operate them in manual mode when weather conditions determine hail is imminent.” Volkswagen said it will put netting above its cars as the main form of protection and will use the cannons as a “secondary tool.”
Farmers complained that Volkswagen’s anti-hail devices led to the loss of nearly 5,000 acres of crops by keeping away precipitation since the beginning of the rainy season in May, according to the Agence France-Presse.
The hail cannons are “affecting the Earth’s cycles,” said Gerardo Perez, a leader of the farmers, AFP reported. When the devices blast away, “the sky literally clears and it simply doesn’t rain,” he said. To cover the crop losses, the farmers are demanding that Volkswagen pay nearly $4 million in compensation, according to the report.