Deception, Profit and Polution at Volkswagen

VW clean diesel

Lateral view VW Golf TDI “clean diesel” at the 2010 Washington Auto Show. Photo by Creative Commons.

In a corporate world driven by profit omnino gratuita; the line between ethics, responsibility and success is a thin one to tread indeed. Volkswagen was a recent embodiment of this balancing act as it was revealed that the corporation had duped emission testing on all of their post 2009 diesel fueled vehicles. How one may ask?

The car manufacturer had engineered their vehicles to detect when they were being tested for emissions and thus function at a level that would conform to EU and North American emission laws. The shockwave of this news extends far and wide, touching a great many aspects of society. For one, the IRS can claim tax credits given to buyers, many countries may have a legal case when it comes to fraud and pollution and even medical costs; not to mention the consumers who were mislead into buying something they may have deemed was beneficial to society. This turbulence is further reflected in the VW stock price that dropped over 12% overnight after the emergence of the news.

So what does this mean for the environment? Tests have shown that diesel cars that have cheated the emission tests in actuality emitted up to forty times the amount of pollutants that they had claimed beforehand. With eleven million cars affected by this scandal, 500 000 of which are here in the United-States; and based on past studies that have shown that every 1300 tons of extra pollutant is responsible for a death; VW may have the blood of fifteen to 95 people on their hand in the United States alone. Countries have retaliated in different ways, with the United States planning to fine VW up to 35000$ per vehicle affected resulting in a staggering 18 billion dollar fine. Switzerland took action more severely and has outright banned the sale of all Volkswagen diesel cars in the country. What is more, VW owns other brands such as Audi, Lamborghini and Porsche to name a few. With annual revenue in excess of 200 billion dollars, one wonders if the corporate machine had meticulously calculated the risk associated with taking the questionable course of action that they had undertaken and estimated that it would be worth going in this direction as the substantial profit would overshadow any fines and penalties that may be imposed. Despite the CEO stepping down, the stock plummeting and the hammering negative press about the company, will this story be quickly forgotten and swept under the rug in the near future or will it serve as a lesson in ethics and values to other companies; prompting them to think twice as the financial gain may not be worth the backlash and irreversible damage to their reputation.

Nikita Tafazoli ’16

(Photo: Lateral view VW Golf TDI “clean diesel” at the 2010 Washington Auto Show. Photo: CC Image courtesy of Mariordo on Wikipedia.)

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