25 September 2015

Ethics & Legislation


Many years ago my uncle worked for a car parts developer in the UK. A Japanese car maker (I won't mention the name)  wanted to use a patented car part they had and agreed to pay for it. They modified the part in some way and for that reason refused to pay anything for it. It went to court and the ruling was for the car maker to pay half the agreed value. They did so and got the part for half the price they had originally said they would pay. Was that ethical? It was cost effective. The developing company was out of pocket though.


In Europe car makers are under huge pressure to meet ever stricter emissions standards. The car companies are saying the time frame, cost of compliance and standards to be met are too high but the legislators seem undeterred. Is it reasonable to put that sort of pressure on car makers? Is it going to lead to short cuts and even cheating to try and meet the standards? Survival could be what some car makers face and extreme pressure can lead to extreme measures.

Perhaps some legislators came out of their field of education and went straight in to their EU job, never having done more than push a pen (or hit a keyboard key) in their lives. Should they go and spend some time in the car companies design centres and talk to engineers at several car makers before deciding on what is a reasonable standard? Or are these decisions driven by ideals irrespective of practical realities?

I don't say this to excuse VW because their cheating wasn't about survival, but business advantage through deceit. They could still sell plenty of petrol cars which is what US buyers prefer anyway. I am talking about bureaucrats sitting in offices making recommendations to politicians without giving the manufacturer enough consideration.


Business is driven by profit, not ethics. High moral standards do not pay the bills so industry decisions are based primarily on financial considerations. However, there must be a point where one does the right thing rather than just make a monetary decision.

Watching them are the rule makers. Legislators should know how their decisions affect others. Are those decisions reasonable? Can they sit down with car makers and come to a conclusion on a matter that is achievable and affordable? Common sense goes along way and working with people rather than acting in a high handed way gets better results.

PS. These comments on legislation are not about laws on air quality, which are very important.

No comments:

Post a Comment