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Deontology Vs Utilitarianism: Volkswagen's Emissions-cheating Scandal

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Volkswagen Fined $1.17 Billion in Germany in Emissions-Cheating Scandal Many companies have suffered because of their leaders’ lack of commitment to goodwill and ethics. This paper will analyze Volkswagen Fined $1.17 Billion in Germany in the Emissions-Cheating Scandal, an article from The Wall Street Journal, in regard to deontology and utilitarianism. 

When arguing from a deontological point of view, Volkswagen cheating and misrepresenting the environmental tests is wrong and it is not morally the right thing to do. Immanuel Kant expressed the concept of morality as the individual’s duty to do the right thing. He argues that an action is moral if it is done out of the categorical imperative also known as moral law. The act of cheating is against their moral duty, so Volkswagen is acting against what the moral law says. An investigation into the scandal concluded that a “lack of management oversight in VW’s engine-development department after 2007 shared responsibility for the manipulation of 10.7 million diesel vehicles that were rigged to fool regulators worldwide”. 

According to deontology, the engineers, in this case, should have been forthcoming with the fact that they were contributing to cheating the European and American governments since honesty is a universal law. And deontology requires that people and/or companies adhere to these universal laws in order to achieve the greatest outcome for the greatest number of people. Therefore, by being honest, the Volkswagen engineers could potentially save the planet from a fair amount of damage, something most would agree is a good outcome. 

Kant believed that a person or company should only act in such a way that one can will the maxim or intention of one’s action as a universal law. And because Volkswagen is a global organization unconditional ethics could be a challenge for them having to deal with suppliers, customers, and competitors in immensely different cultures. If we look at the scandal from the utilitarian perspective, it promotes the greatest good for humanity as a whole. 

In this case, the engineers are bound to tell the truth, keeping in mind the benefit they would bring to the planet and to those living in it. Better air from less emissions would lead to a healthier and happier life for everyone living on earth. Therefore, stopping the production of the cheating devices early on would lead to the best outcome. However, this system also does not allow the engineers to focus on themselves: they have to risk losing their jobs (or getting sued by the company for lack of loyalty) without any protest. 

There is also an argument as to why the utilitarian principle is not the most convincing argument. Utilitarianism in business can lead to a bottom-line mentality in which decisions are made based on achieving the greatest good for the organization. The greatest good for the organization as it pertains to the greatest number of stakeholders and all others affected by the actions of the organization. In this case, Volkswagen did not make decisions based on achieving the greatest good for the organization, they did the opposite. The “€26 billion that Volkswagen has provided for on its balance sheets to cover the costs of the diesel scandal” and “it also spurred other criminal investigations and civil complaints, many of which are still hanging over the company”.   

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Deontology Vs Utilitarianism: Volkswagen’s Emissions-Cheating Scandal. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from
“Deontology Vs Utilitarianism: Volkswagen’s Emissions-Cheating Scandal.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022,
Deontology Vs Utilitarianism: Volkswagen’s Emissions-Cheating Scandal. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 May 2022].
Deontology Vs Utilitarianism: Volkswagen’s Emissions-Cheating Scandal [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 29 [cited 2022 May 22]. Available from:
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