The Dark Side of Volkswagen

Publication - June 28, 2011
A report revealing how, despite promoting a green image, VW is opposing climate policies needed to drive cleaner technology in the car sector, save drivers money and help reduce Europe's dependence on oil.

The Volkswagen Group is the largest car maker in Europe. It has repeatedly claimed that it wants to be a green company, but has so far failed to live up to its ambitions. It has been slow to make its fleet more efficient, despite having developed the technology to do so, and has actively worked to impede strong European climate policies. The company must change.

Volkswagen’s significance in the car market should not be underestimated. By 2018, the company aims to take the number one spot from Toyota to become the biggest car maker in the world. The Group comprises nine well-known brands and also owns a controlling stake in Porsche. One in five new cars sold in Europe is a Volkswagen brand and the company hopes to attain global dominance by expanding sales in the US market and the emerging markets of China and India.

Volkswagen speaks of being "determined to become the world’s leading automaker in terms of both economy and ecology," and some of its models regularly feature in top ten 'green car' lists. The company emphasises its commitment to environmental protection within much of its public advertising.

Yet the bulk of the Volkswagen Group’s cars continue to be amongst the most polluting in Europe compared to other volume brands. The company has dragged its feet in reducing the fuel consumption of its vehicle fleet, and whilst it has developed the technologies to produce highly fuel-efficient vehicles, it has not made them widely available or affordable. And despite its green rhetoric, Volkswagen is opposing two vital climate policies which are needed to drive innovation in Europe and cleaner technology in the car sector, save drivers money, and help Europe reduce its damaging dependence on oil.

If the Volkswagen Group is to live up to its promises, the company must rapidly improve the fuel efficiency of its products, and put its weight behind strong climate change policies in Europe. In particular, public support from the Volkswagen Group for a domestic European greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 30 percent by the year 2020 would be a powerful sign that the company wants to be a genuine leader on green issues, whilst support for stringent car efficiency legislation would show it was serious about improving the efficiency of its vehicles and driving down pollution from the car industry.

The Dark Side of Volkswagen