And Then Along Came Volkswagen 2

vw bugIn reporting on the latest Public Affairs Council Pulse Survey, Sarab Kochhar of the Institute for Public Relations noted, “Two-thirds of Americans have a favorable opinion of major companies but many aren’t sure they can trust them. According to the survey, only 10 percent say they have a lot of trust and confidence that businesses will behave ethically.”  I thought that was a little harsh.

And then along came Volkswagen.

It seems that Volkswagen invested a lot of money on their new diesel engine but its emissions were below the standards set in the United States and other countries.

So did they fix the engine so emissions were in compliance?  Nope.

They rigged the software to give false readings so cars would pass emissions testing. Problem solved.  But the US EPA figured it out and now Volkswagen is in crisis mode.

The reporting on the diesel engine scandal has a common theme. Lots of people within Volkswagen know about the rigged software.  No one had the integrity to blow the whistle.

There is a new film out called Experimenter, based on the work of Stanley Milgram.  Milgram’s Obedience to Authority is a brilliant study of how far normal people will go under the direction of a strong authority figure.  The experiments themselves raised enormous ethical issues, but the conclusions were chilling.  Read the book, see the film (it’s available on demand) and you will gain some insight into why no one spoke out at Volkswagen.

Volkswagen would have been better served by heeding Sophocles who said, “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.”

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