Greenwash can't hide the car industry's true colours

Feature story - 14 March, 2008
One of the biggest events in the car industry's calendar, the ongoing Geneva Car Show is awash with companies talking green, talking 'climate control'. When Greenpeace looked under the bonnet of the of the industry PR green machine it found the same old engine of climate destruction.

Activists at the Geneva car show pose the question, 'What is a Good Car?'

Greenpeace's analysis reveals that the average auto on display pumps out an excessive 201 grams (g) of CO2 per kilometre. Forty grams greater than the current average for cars on the road of 160g and well above a twelve year old broken promise from the industry to get down to 140g.

BMW lined its stand with diesel cars, each with their emissions level emblazoned on the side. Fiat dressed their stand in foliage. For visitors to the show it was an impressive, even overwhelming display of green marketing. But behind the hype and foliage, the industry's true colours can be found.

Thirty Greenpeace activists who disrupted the proceedings where desinctly unimpressed. Surrounding select models they where there to challenge the industry to answer the question: "What is a good car?"

View the list of cars and their CO2 emissions (.xls)

Climate campaigner Helen Perivier summed it up: "For a century the industry has sold us a dream of faster, bigger, heavier cars. The climate crisis means the new century requires a new definition of what makes a good car."

At present CO2 emissions from road transport and aviation are growing twice as fast as overall CO2 emissions. It has been estimated by 2050, left unchecked, emissions from transport could account for between 30 and 50 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

At the Geneva show Renault unveiled cars with average emissions of 186 grams, BMW's came in with an average emissions of 187 grams, and Volkswagen racked up an astonishing 197 grams thanks to their high performance Passats and Tiguans.

"If these are the cars the industry thinks we'll be driving in the next few years, then it's clear they're not serious about climate change. Only legislation can put the brakes on the car industries reckless drive to ever higher emissions." said Helen Perivier, Car Campaigner with Greenpeace International.

Greenpeace is calling on the EU to impose a fleet wide average fuel efficiency standard of 120g CO2 per km by 2012, and to reduce this to 80g by 2020. Since car makers have failed to take the lead in meeting this challenge governments must act to bring about these changes.

To highlight just how the industry has been confusing car buyers and politicians alike we're launching our 'Good Car' website.

We're asking you to start by picking out the worst car for the climate on display at the Geneva car show - and to help you we've narrowed the field to a choice of five.

Will you pick the petrol hungry Toyota SUV or the little VW Golf that is sold in huge numbers but isn't as fuel efficient as it could be? Working out what makes a good car is a difficult business. Take a look at all five models and cast your vote.

Take action

Please write to the Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, today asking her to support strong emissions standards.