Monday, April 15, 2013

Chevy Volts BAD Batteries (2011)

Based on a paper by, Dominic Gemmiti
Summary by, Dominic Gemmiti

Chevrolet, a company known worldwide for their quality automobiles and excellent service was formed by two individuals in the early 1900's. It was not until 2011 and the release of the Volt that there was some controversy raised. This controversy followed the discovery of some serious issues regarding the batteries powering this electric car. These two men, Louis Chevrolet and William Durant are responsible for the creation of what is now one of the worlds top car manufactures. The name Chevrolet was derived from Louis's last name and Durant designed the famous bow tie logo, both still remain with the company until this day. Based out of Detroit, Michigan the two men's main goal was to compete with their neighbor Henry Ford and his model T, Louis and William quickly went to work and built their first car in 1908. They called their first creation the 490, this name matched the vehicles price. YES the car only cost four hundred and ninety dollars. Sales of this fantastic vehicle reached upwards of 70,000 units, the boys were off to an excellent start. It was not long after that Louis wanted out and left the company, this did not slow Durant down one bit. Two years later Chevrolet merged with General motors. The company only prospered from this point on and grew into the dominating car manufacturing company it is today. Chevrolet now has 92 plants worldwide and their vehicles can be found in 120 countries. With such a large and dominant company Chevrolet must meet the wants and needs of the consumers, and that is exactly what they did when they created the Volt. With the rapidly rising prices of fuel, a fuel friendly car was in high demand so Chevy developed an electric car called the Volt. This car was promoted to be mainly battery operated and get 92 miles per gallon while on battery power and 37 while running on the gas engine that recharged the batteries. These perceived capabilities are the leading factor of the controversy, along with the discoveries of the NHTSA in mid-November 2011 customers were outraged. The NHTSA which is an organization that performs crash tests for vehicles discovered the batteries that powered the Volt could be a fire hazard if the vehicle was involved in an accident. All in all the main power supply of the Volt, its batteries, created all the hype regarding Chevy's new release. Not only did Chevrolet mislead their customers about the vehicles electric capabilities, but they also lacked the proper testing and research of the batteries to ensure they would be safe in all situations. Chevy overall acted unethically in the sense that they misled to believe the car could travel great distances on just battery power when in reality it only lasted 40 miles before the gas engine kicked in. Chevy also disregarded the customers safety considered the lack of crash testing that the company performed on car, especially considering it was powered by batteries which alone can be considered dangerous. Even though there were no lawsuits filed or reported injuries resulting from the faulty batteries does not mean what Chevy did was right. Even though non of the four theories agree with Chevy's decision, it will still be beneficial to look at the decision from each of the four theories point of view. 

Based upon the theory of individualism, which states the main goal of the company is maximize profits for the company and its stakeholders while not participating in illegal activities or violating peoples rights. With that in mind Chevy's decisions were unethical, not only did they violate their customer rights by misleading them to think the Volt was greater than it really was they also disregarded the safety of their customers. These decisions did nothing but decrease profits for the company and its stakeholders. The company would not only be stuck with costly repair to ensure the vehicles safety, but they would also lose valuable customers. With no monetary benefits and the violation of people having the right to know the truth about the Volt's battery life-span Chevy's decisions would be considered unethical from and individualistic standpoint. 

When looking at Chevy's decision from utilitarians point of view it would also be considered unethical. A utilitarian believes in maximizing happiness and increasing the greatest good for the greatest number, Chevy did not accomplish either one of those. Chevy did not maximize happiness for themselves or the customers. The customers were outraged at the fact that they were misled and their car was not what thought it was going to be and it turns out the batteries are a fire hazard. Angry customers mean less customers which means less profit for Chevy, with less customers and profit, happiness will not be maximized for the company. With a decrease in happiness in all stakeholders and no intent to increase the greatest good for the greatest number a utilitarian would deem Chevy's decisions unethical.

When analyzing Chevy's decision using the Kantian theory the actions would be considered unethical. The Kantian theory states that companies should treat people with respect and as an end rather than a form of means only. Chevy did not follow either one of those, they did not respect their customers and they took advantage of the demand for fuel efficient cars and quickly developed an unsafe electric car solely as a mean for increasing profit. They disrespected their customers by making them believe that the car was capable of distances it really could not achieve and that the engine would charge the batteries when they were low when in fact it did not. The only way to charge the battery was to plug it in and wait ten hours for a full charge, something most customers were unaware of. Then by whipping a vehicle together disregarding things like safety so they could quickly enter the electric car industry is an example of treating the customers as means to profit rather than a satisfied customer with the end product. By disrespecting the customers and using them for means to gain profit Kant would not agree with Chevy's decision. 


The final theory, the virtue theory states that for a decision to be ethical it must comply with all four virtues, which include courage, temperance, justice and honesty. Chevy ignored these four virtues resulting in an unethical verdict when looking at their decision using the virtue theory. Chevy was not courageous what so ever, they lied to their customers about how long the electric car's batteries would last. Temperance was ignored in the fact that Chevy was unreasonable in their studies and test of the overall safety of the vehicle. There actions after the problems were discovered could be considered somewhat just, but there is no justification for misleading customers and the disregarding adequate crash testing. The fact that Chevy misled their customers about the vehicles capabilities means Chevy was not honest with their customers. Considering Chevy did not follow any of the four virtues their decision would not be ethical when evaluating it with the virtue theory. 

1. Blazer, . Weil, "Electric Car Battery Issue Ignites NHTSA Controversy." Last modified 12 12,
2011.   Accessed April 1, 2013.

2. Chevrolet, "History." Last modified 2013. Accessed April 3, 2013.

3. DesJardins, Joseph. (2009). An Introduction to Business Ethics (Ed: 4). New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

4. General Motors, "Company: About GM." Last modified 2013. Accessed April 4, 2013.

5. Miller, . CBSNEWS, "Feds probe new battery fires in Chevy Volt." Last modified 26 11,
2011. Accessed April 1, 2013.

6. Szczesny, . Detroit Bureau , "GM Moves Quickly To Quell Controversy Surrounding Chevy
Volt Fires." Last modified 29 11, 2011. Accessed March 24, 2013.

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