What are others saying?

volkswagen-diesel
Martin Winterkorn being portrayed

“I wish I could say I was completely surprised,” says Shannon Vallor, chair of the department of philosophy at Santa Clara University in California.  “The expectation of corporate wrong doing has become normal…This can’t be the act of a few rogue engineers, the implications go all the way up the corporate ladder.  We see how widespread among the product line this device was.  It would have had to be tested and updated.  This is serious, massive corporate maleficence that affects people’s health.  There’s no question that everyone involved knew this was unethical” [1].

“The most effective technology to cut NOx is called selective catalytic reduction (SCR), which involves spritzing small amounts of urea and water into the exhaust stream to facilitate the breakdown of NOx into nitrogen and carbon dioxide.  The problem is that SCR requires a tank, a pump, and plumbing – not easy things to package on a small vehicle platform …There’s more to putting a urea tank on a car than just lashing it down with zip ties.  The floor-pan will likely change, the addition of a secondary filler can mean retooling a quarter-panel, and the re-engineered car has to go through full crash certification” [2].

“I will tell you I am an engineer and I have a way of thinking and I cannot accept VW’s portrayal of this as something a couple of rogue software engineers.  I would begin by saying isn’t intellectual property patent work a very important part of what makes VW, VW?  You’re constantly looking for breakthrough technology that you can patent…So you’re having us believe…back in 2009 you were trying to figuring out a way to have clean diesel, top performance and your engineers got stumped.  The NOx emissions were not even close…Then all of a sudden, two software engineers like they found pixie dust, come in and say we found a solution…Now you’re telling me these two engineers snuck that computer code into the software and nobody said this is breakthrough technology…VW is trying to get the United States of America to believe these are a couple of rogue engineers?  I categorically reject that” [3].

All three of the quotes above make a very compelling point; there is no way this “defeat device” could have been installed and gone into production without the knowledge and cooperation from many employees and groups all throughout Volkswagen’s corporate ladder.  The first two quotes more specifically mention the design of the vehicle to accommodate the installation of the device.  How the addition of the device in vehicles would require testing and updating multiple times.  Being a mechanical engineer focusing in the automotive industry, I was too curious about the location of this device.  The following image shows the exhaust system for a Volkswagen Golf installed with the “defeat device.”  It is clear the addition of this device wasn’t small and would have required multiple design changes.

vw-device
Volkswagen Golf’s exhaust system with device installed

The third quote is a video clip from CSPAN with Chris Collins scolding former Volkswagen Group of America’s CEO Michael Horn.  He rejects the fact that this device was designed and installed in millions of Volkswagen vehicles without anyone knowing.  Emission outputs 40 times the standard solved apparently overnight by some rogue software engineers and nobody thought it was breakthrough technology?  This solution wasn’t worthy for Volkswagen to submit for a patent?  Like Chris Collins, I personally find this hard to believe.  The short clip of the entire conference is listed below, which I recommend watching.

A majority of the articles and reports I’ve read or watched appear to say the same things.  They first discuss the facts of the Volkswagen scandal such as the number of vehicles affected, how a “defeat device” was installed into the vehicle, or how without this device the emissions outputs can be up to 40 times the standards.  They then discuss how there is no way Volkswagen employees and executives didn’t have knowledge of what was going on one way or another and how they knew this was unethical.  I agree with the positions each of these articles and reports take.  I don’t see how these decisions could have been made without the knowledge and unethical decision making of many employees and executives throughout Volkswagen.

 

Resources:

[1] IEEE Spectrum

[2] Car and Driver

[3] C-SPAN

[4] Exhaust Schematic

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4 thoughts on “What are others saying?

  1. I agree with the fact that this design has to have been approved by upper-level managers. It may even have been the upper-level managers that indicated their end goal, put pressure on the engineers to achieve the goal, and when the engineers presented this idea the managers must have approved it. Overall, this kind of unethical behavior from a world-renowned company is disappointing and even alarming. If this company has the audacity to trick consumers by claiming something that is actually fake, I can’t even imagine how many other companies do the same to maintain their competitive advantage. Do you know which levels of the workforce were reprimanded for this? Were lead engineers fired?

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  2. I know that Volkswagen’s CEO and Volkswagen of America’s CEO both stepped down from their positions, but as for the software engineers I’m not positive. I read that Michael Horn, former CEO of Volkswagen of America blamed these engineers for their actions, but was unable to find anything pertaining to if they were reprimanded or not. Their names were never shown and they were always just referenced as a “couple of software engineers.” It’s likely if it was their fault, I wouldn’t think they would still be working at Volkswagen.

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  3. From what I understand is that some of the employees knew of the error or of the damage they were doing, but they still kept doing the all process in the same way. Maybe they did in order to accomplish goals that they were set by the company but above all by the tremendous pressure that falls on the shoulders of the workers of the company. Which do you think would be the best solution that the company could in the future in order to avoid similar problems? Do you think that only the engineers had to blame on this case or also other employees such as the CEO.

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  4. I think the company needs to reestablish and reinforce their code of ethics throughout the company. They should have taken a loss originally by missing the production start date so they could have come to a solution to this problem and not be stuck in the situation they are now. I think many people at many levels of the company are to blame for this. Everyone should always be and was likely informed of what was going on. A fix to this emissions issue could not have happened overnight and would have needed approval from many supervisors in order to implement into diesel vehicle software systems.

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