Europe’s largest car maker, Volkswagen, is harbouring a “dark secret” according to Greenpeace.

Despite its populist and consumer-friendly image, VW stands accused of greenwashing its dirty activities,  trying to water down action on climate change and refusing to make popular models more fuel efficient.

According to Greenpeace, the car maker has repeatedly claimed that it wants to be a ‘green’ company, but has so far fundamentally failed to live up to its ambitions. This means the VW Group has the biggest climate footprint of any car manufacturer in Europe.

Although Volkswagen speaks of being “determined to become the world’s leading automaker in terms of both economy and ecology”, the bulk of its cars continue to be amongst the most polluting in Europe compared to other volume brands.

The company’s 2009 Sustainability Report went so far as to say: ‘We aim to be the most eco-friendly automaker in the world!’.

But the reality is far different.  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.

According to Greenpeace’s report, the German carmaker puts its most efficient engines in only 6 per cent of its cars and inflates their price by more than their cost, deterring the wider adoption of greener motoring.

So for every ‘greener’ vehicle VW sells, it shifts around 15 others which emit much more CO2.

Greenpeace argues: “Volkswagen penalises consumers wanting smarter, cleaner vehicles by artificially inflating their price and making them marginal to its fleet.”

And despite its green rhetoric, Volkswagen has a history of opposing stricter fuel efficiency measures for cars, being one of the “driving forces” behind a car industry lobby campaign that tried to water down EU legislation on fuel efficiency.

It is also opposing the EU’s landmark climate policy of a 30 per cent CO2 reduction by 2020, by playing a leading role in the influential car lobby organisation in Brussels called ACEA.

The EU is committed to reducing its GHG emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. This year, European governments will consider whether to strengthen this by moving to a 30% reduction target.

But ACEA has been lobbying hard to scupper the change. And the VW Group has more positions on the board of ACEA than any other company, so it could easily force ACEA to be much more progressive on climate change.

Because of this Greenpeace has launched a campaign to force the company to change, using iconic images from Star Wars, arguing that the company must be saved from the “Dark side”. The environmental group has also launched a spoof VW advert that had a child dressed as Darth Vader.

The environmental group intends to target VW with a high-profile campaign, starting today in London where it will unveil of a poster campaign featuring a Darth Vader mask with the VW symbol and the words “Volkswagen. The Dark Side.”

It intends to step up its efforts in coming months.

Greenpeace argues: “The truth is that the Volkswagen Group has lagged behind its competitors for years. It only stepped up progress on CO2 reductions once a legal framework was put in place that forced it do so. It has shown no ability or willingness to voluntarily deliver the innovation or technology changes required. Now Volkswagen is openly opposed to the agreed 2020 standard that would benefit motorists, the economy and the environment.”

To watch the video, read the report or get involved go here:


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