Analysis Report of Volkswagen Emission Scandal

date: Oct 03, 2016
- Thesis
language: English
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In September 21st, 2015, the Volkswagen is caught cheating on emission tests using a sophisticated software deep in the system module by United States Environmental Protection Agency [1], which affects 500,000 cars in United States and 11 million cars World-wide during model years from 2009 to 2015 [2]. The cheating on emission tests caused distrust of public and governments and all of this consequences leads from two factors: Technology factor and regulatory factor. But technology factor is the underlying cause of the Volkswagen Emission Scandal. The action and reaction from Volkswagen Group indicates their violation of WFEO Model Codes of Ethical [3].

The unprofessionalism of engineers is one of the main factor. Start in 2009 model year, Volkswagen started to migrate turbocharged direct injection(TDI) diesel engines to the new common-rail fuel injection(CFI) diesel engines, which is more precise amount of fuel deliver, higher fuel injection pressure, and better control of emissions, according to [4]. A diesel particulate filter is also installed to the capture root of most model of vehicles while some models use a urea-based exhaust aftertreatment system along with the new engine, which is claimed cleaner emissions than US requirements while deliver high performance to users [5]. Sadly, the new system fails to keep good fuel economy while having low NOx emissions as they advertised, so they decided to cheat by programming an engine control to toggle low-emission compliant mode while an emissions test is undergoing [6]. The actual emission can be as high as 38 times the lab result [7]. This means engineers practiced with an unaccepted method to make public feel that they are responsible for the health and value for the public, which should not be allowed. This is clearly violating WFEO Model Codes of Ethical 4.2, which give engineers obligations and responsibility to the public environment and health when they act.

The lack of regulation between the corporation is also a main cause. Although the engineer decided to cheat in the emission test, at least 30 people in the corporation at management level know the situation and denied the existence of this problem [8], while the corporation claim initially it is just a “mere technical glitches” when the cheating is disclosed and insist this idea for a year until the full report is released by United States Environmental Protection Agency [9]. These shows a weak regulation and the disability of immediate reaction to the emergency situation inside the Volkswagen Group, which they lack the most. They covered their mistake when an unsuitable and harmful practice is being undertaken, which WFEO Model Codes of Ethical 1.2 and 1.3 can be applied to, since an engineer should be trustful and honest to their clients and to the general public as people have right to know more about their purchased vehicles.

Among the Ethical codes, the violation of WFEO Model Codes of Ethical 4.2 can be extremely damaging. With the current high-emission system Volkswagen uses, it is estimated approximately 59 more premature deaths occurred during 2008 and 2015[ 10 ]. And it caused excess 45,000 disability-adjusted life years and lives lost which totally worth 39 billion US dollars[ 11]. The data has proved the severe damages to the health of the general public as well as the environment.

In conclusion, the cheating on emission tests not only harmed the public right to know, but also the public health and environment, while two factors of technical problems and regulatory problems leads to whole Volkswagen Group to cheat with no turn-back. This kind of action should not have been taken and cannot be taken ever again to harm public benefits.


[1] Wikipedia, “Volkswagen emissions scandal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,” Wikipedia, 24 9 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 1 10 2016].

[2] J. Ewing, “Volkswagen Says 11 Million Cars Worldwide Are Affected in Diesel Deception,” The New York Times, 22 9 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 1 10 2016].

[3] World Federation of Engineering Organizations, “WFEO Model Code of Ethics,” [Online]. Available: [Accessed 28 9 2016].

[4] R. B. GmbH, “The Common Rail Diesel Injection System Explained,” SwedSpeed, 7 6 2004. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 9 2016].

[5] S. Hall, “VW Touts TDI Clean Diesel With ‘Golden Sisters’ Video Series On Tumblr,” Reuters, 5 3 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 30 9 2016].

[6] L. Mearian, “EPA details how VW software thwarted emission tests,” COMPUTERWORLD, 24 9 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 1 10 2016].

[7] G. Gates, J. Ewing, K. Russell and D. Watkins, “Explaining Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal,” The New York Times, 12 9 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 1 10 2016].

[8] D. Hawranek, “Dutzende Manager in VW-Skandal verwickelt,” Der Spiegel Online, 14 10 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 1 10 2016].

[9] N. Kresge and R. Weiss, “Volkswagen Drops 23% After Admitting Diesel Emissions Cheat,” Bloomberg, 21 9 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 1 10 2016].

[10] S. R. H. Barrett, R. L. Speth, S. D. Eastham, I. C. Dedoussi, A. Ashok, R. Malina and W. D. Keith, “Impact of the Volkswagen emissions control defeat device on US public health,” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 10, no. 11, 2015.

[11] R. Oldenkamp, R. van Zelm and M. A. J. Huijbregts, “Valuing the human health damage caused by the fraud of Volkswagen,” Environmental Pollution, vol. 212, no. 5, pp. 121-127, 2016.