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Ethics Case: Volkswagen

Engineering ethics is an important aspect of any company’s operation as it determines the quality of manufacturing, the safety standards, and the fulfillment of the necessary regulations. Moreover, engineering ethics influence the company’s reputation and corporate responsibility. The intention to disregard engineering principles can result in a scandal, lawsuits, penalties, and damage to the image. Thus, the Volkswagen scandal is the example of engineering ethics violation that caused many issues for the company. Consequently, the controversy was the company’s manipulation in the effort to reach higher profitability, which caused its decline, loss of customers, and financial problems. 

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Volkswagen case

The Volkswagen scandal is the engineering ethics case that provoked many discussions and influenced the company’s reputation as it was related to the manipulations with corporate governance and ‘green’ revenue. The company installed a software defeat device in 11 million Audi and Volkswagen diesel vehicles sold worldwide. The mechanism in the emissions-control module detected when the cars were undergoing testing on emissions and changed the results for the better. Consequently, Volkswagen’s automobiles spewed up to 40 times the level of air pollutants and nitrogen oxide and caused smog and respiratory problems (Patel). The problem of Volkswagen was that they intended to deceive their customers into believing that their engineers had manufactured ecologically safe automobiles. They wanted to mislead the environmental regulators, following own interests and influencing consumers negatively (Patel). 

Volkswagen shocked the world as their engineers neglected and overlooked their duties and the ethical principles of professionals who care about the reputation of their company. They bear responsibility for the security of their products and environmental safety even if it is not profitable. However, one should not accuse only engineers of the illegal act; it was the Volkswagen’s leaders who made the decision to pay more attention to the company’s profitability. Consequently, the specialists identified the case as a massive and serious corporate maleficence that affected the environment and people’s health (Hakim). Moreover, the employees involved in the case knew that their activities were unethical.  

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How the situation is unethical

The situation with Volkswagen was unethical for many reasons. First, the employees violated engineering ethics provoking moral and environmental issues related to technological activities. Second, the situation with Volkswagen was the infringement of both engineering and business moral principles as currently, the company has a bad name and a negative reputation in the world. It is evident that ethics presupposes staying within some established rules and regulations, and Volkswagen has chosen the unfair way to escape them while remaining seemingly moral. 

Volkswagen was unethical with their customers because the quality of their products did not conform to the established standards. Thus, the company violated emission norms producing a ‘clean’ diesel car for Americans. One should question not the talent and knowledge of Volkswagen’s engineers but their moral status that did not allow them to leave their workplaces because of the unethical policy of the firm. It means that the company misinterpreted what was right and wrong. Another problem of Volkswagen’s integrity was that they claimed to reinforce their mission and vision of making ‘people’s cars’ but instead involved themselves and their customers in an emission scandal. Moreover, some experts regard Volkswagen’s conduct as a dangerous criminal act that should be judged seriously to encourage other companies to avoid unethical practices (Horrell). It means that they imply that Volkswagen should bear criminal responsibility for manufacturing their ‘clean’ diesel cars. 

Original solution

The problem with Volkswagen has not yet been solved properly as the customers remain dissatisfied with the way they are treated. One should mention that this company has customers worldwide. However, it treats its American clients better providing goodwill payments to the U.S. vehicle owners. As for the Europeans, they remain dissatisfied and criticize such an approach. According to the records, more than 500,000 American cars contained the cheating software (Campbell). Thus, VW paid them up to $10,000 per car in cash besides fixing the vehicle (Campbell). In Europe, 8.5 million cars were affected by that unethical engineering case, but the European owners did not receive any compensation(Campbell). It means that Volkswagen did not treat their customers on equal terms. 

Another solution provided by Volkswagen was admitting their manipulative actions. It is evident that they were conscious of their unethical practices. However, the problem is that they did not answer to the European Department for Transport for their illegal activities that brought much harm to the human health (Campbell). Moreover, the German government did not punish their car makers for the criminal actions.

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How the problem should be solved ethically

The Volkswagen scandal can be resolved in an ethical way. First, the company should apologize to their customers for their illegal and unethical practices. Second, they should provide a refund to every client, no matter if they are from the USA or Europe. Moreover, it is a must for engineers to prove that they follow the Code of Ethics for Engineering. It is obligatory for Volkswagen to demonstrate that customers and their safety are more important for them than profitability. It is recommended to conduct learning and training on engineering ethics that will prove that Volkswagen admits their mistake and are ready to work on improving their image and reputation in the world. The situation shows that Volkswagen should also answer to the Department for Transport as there is the conflict of interests between them. The company should follow all rules and regulations as the adherence to them will define their reputation in the future. 

In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the Volkswagen case is an example of the violation of engineering ethics. The Volkswagen scandal was caused by the company’s desire to gain higher profitability by deceiving their consumers as well as transport and ecological agencies. The situation is unethical because Volkswagen did not follow the environmental regulations but instead promoted the image of the organization that produced ‘clean’ diesel cars. Thus, violating engineering and business ethics caused its decline, loss of customers, and financial problems. 

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