Well this must be embarrassing. As you know, Europe’s biggest carmaker Volkswagen has been saying it wants to become the most environmentally-friendly car company in the world. But in reality the managers of VW want to do as little as possible under EU law. At the same time they keep blowing smoke in well orchestrated media events like the recent Golf7 launch in Berlin, pretending to be a true friend of the environment.
We’re not fooled. In July this year, as the European Commission was preparing its draft law on 2020 car efficiency standards, CEO of VW Martin Winterkorn wrote to the European Commission that it should not put “a disproportionate burden on premium manufacturers” – like VW.
What Winterkorn wanted was for the new EU law to oblige manufactures of smaller cars, such as Fiat, to make greater CO2 cuts than makers of larger cars, including VW’s Audi brand, despite the fact that Fiat’s emissions are already much lower.
However, Winterkorn did not get quite what he wanted. According to the new draft law VW, Fiat and the others all have to make the same proportionate CO2 cuts by 2020. The law is now with EU ministers and parliamentarians who will decide on its final shape.
This is not the end of the story though. We have also learned that VW, along with BMW and Daimler, are plotting to fill new bottles with old wine. Their lobby group, the VDA, is pushing the EU to not only accept all kinds of accounting tricks, such as getting bonus points for electric cars they have not actually sold, but to also allow car companies to ‘bank CO2 credits’. If the companies reduce their CO2 emissions more than required by 2015 they should “receive a credit for this performance which should be used for underperformance in following years”, VDA says. Now the same group of companies managed to make a joke of the 2015 emission standards, and doing better than required for 2015 isn’t very hard. If VW and the other VDA companies get their way then the 2020 standards would become meaningless.
You cannot see VW’s fingerprints on this particular lobby work. They are again getting their German and European lobby groups to do it for them, just like they did in 2008 when the first EU standard was decided.
So Greenpeace will be watching the car industry lobby groups, ACEA in Europe and VDA in Germany, and how they are communicating with EU decision-makers. We should know by the end of the month the approach ACEA will take. VW, Europe’s biggest manufacturer, has more seats on ACEA than any other company. No decision will be made without its support. If the company is serious about being an environmental leader, it must prevent ACEA and VDA from undermining EU climate laws.