Volkswagen: The Ethical Violations

Topic: Business Ethics
Words: 895 Pages: 3

Volkswagen, a German automobile enterprise, has received several ethical violation charges since 2015. At first, the company was charged for applying temperature-sensing devices to interfere with the vehicles’ emission control systems. However, the company admitted to no wrongdoing and settled the charges with the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States. Later on, the business began operating using a software-based defeat device because its vehicles’ engines failed in the strict pollution standards of many countries. The company wanted to strike a balance between performance levels and environmental standards. The vehicles were newly marketed in the United States as environmentally friendly by using clean diesel. The operating system qualified the vehicles for the emission standards during laboratory tests but was faulty on the roads. Volkswagen failed to adhere to the ethics of developing devices for their company and had to take responsibility for its actions.

The managers and engineers of the company were more focused on maintaining their position as the leader in the production of anti-pollution automobiles that they lost view of ethical ramifications. Moreover, they wanted to increase the production levels to maintain the profits and reputation of the company. Engineers at the company kept complaining that the environmental standards for the development of automobiles were becoming more strict and unreachable, thus influencing their work. For this reason, they developed software to game the system, which is against the company’s ethics. The plan was to convince regulators that the engines met the current emissions standards (Jung & Sharon, 2019). However, they were emitting hazardous gases into the air, thus risking the well-being of people. In its defense, the company blamed computer errors and miscalculations for the shortcoming (Jung & Sharon, 2019). Another issue realized was that no employee came forward to report the irregularities that were taking place in the company, which made many people question the company’s culture. It might be that they did not feel safe enough to blow the whistle on the wrongdoings since they feared losing their jobs.

Following the allegations, Martin Winterkorn, the company’s CEO, resigned, apologizing for the wrongdoings. Matthias Muller took the position and was determined to win back trust for the business through maximum transparency in all operations. However, he did not help the situation since a few months after his appointment, the United States Department of Justice was already questioning his sincerity. The new CEO did not uphold his promise of being open and honest because he continued to limit access to the company’s data (Jung & Sharon, 2019). It is through providing such information that regulators in the United States and other countries would have been able to determine whether improvements were made to allow the use of the vehicles by their populations.

Moreover, the company has not yet been able to develop a software solution to ensure that the vehicles pass the emission tests while still maintaining fuel efficiency. As much as Muller is concerned with winning back customers’ trust, the company’s actions will have to deal with the consequences for a while. In the financial markets, the share price of Volkswagen has already dropped by a huge percentage. In addition, the company may have to compensate buyers, which will have a greater impact on its survival chances. Suppose Muller had been genuine in his promise of maximum transparency, it would have significantly assisted in regaining the loyalty of its employees and the trust of its customers and other vital stakeholders.

Based on this information, I would not buy a Volkswagen car because the ethical violations are far-reaching despite the vehicles being quite affordable and fuel-efficient. Cheating on emission tests would only contribute to the degradation of the environment through pollution, which would affect many aspects of life in the long run. Every vehicle owner should be able to feel safe while driving in public without worrying about whether their vehicles are road worthy. Irresponsible behavior that affects people’s welfare and health should be punished and effectively corrected.

The Volkswagen automobile company has fallen short in its ethical behavior and has lost the right to be an elite car company. Therefore, it needs to develop and implement strategies to help recover from the scandal. First, the company should conduct an intensive internal investigation to ensure those responsible for making the wrong decisions face the necessary consequences. Secondly, Volkswagen should work intensively to create practical technical solutions, especially to support the customers affected by the diesel issue. For example, they could innovate new software that would correct the issue of emission control channels in their vehicles to ensure they are environmentally responsible. Thirdly, developing a more conducive culture and environment would help manage employees’ behavior. Creating a culture of cooperation and social responsibility by including training programs for employees and introducing a new code of ethics would result in the company’s qualitative growth.

In early 2016, Volkswagen failed to present a solid plan to solve the scandal as required by the court and was given additional time until late April. Finally, the federal United States Judge ordered the company to pay almost three billion dollars as a fine for cheating on designated emission tests (Jung & Sharon, 2019). The company had to compensate buyers a considerable amount of money for the inconsistencies they experienced. Conclusively, the Volkswagen scandal has significantly affected its growth, and it will take the company more time to recover fully.


Jung, J. & Sharon E. (2019). The Volkswagen emissions scandal and its aftermath. Global Business and Organizational Excellence. 38(4), 6-15. Web.

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