The environmental credentials of the firm anytime soon
Tom Stacey does not work for any company, consult or own shares of or receive money from any business or organization who could profit from this piece, and has not disclosed any relevant affiliations outside of their academic institution.
VW’s chief executive, Herbert Diess, announced that he is looking to hire someone who is an ” aggressive climate activist” to join Volkswagen, who will have direct access to the company’s board to challenge the company’s green policies. Although this may be a good thing, VW is starting from an unfortunate situation. VW is part of an industry responsible for seventy-two percent of the transport emissions within the EU, which includes transport accounting for 30% of all CO2 emissions.
As of 2015, VW acknowledged fraud in the emissions testing regimes. Diesel engines were fitted with devices that allowed them to appear less polluting as they actually were in tests conducted at the time of testing by US and EU regulators. ” Dieselgate” was a massive knock-on effect that saw consumers avoid diesel engines from all manufacturers over the last five years, and the sales of diesel vehicles down 27 percent in the UK year-over-year.
As if that wasn’t enough, there was evidence showing that, as of the year 2014 VW tested its emission from vehicles on monkeys and humans within the US in the time it was known that the emissions contained a number of substances that could trigger cancer. In the post-Greta Thunberg era, VW is realising that it must clean up its action. It’s almost like it’s looking to create its own Thunberg.
The market is dominated by the upstarts.
The issue with VW is that over the last decade the automobile industry has evolved with the help of a large part by an Californian firm whose mission is to accelerate the world’s shift to a sustainable energy. This company is Tesla and in 2019 it shipped 400,000 electric cars that don’t produce toxic tailpipe emissions, and typically during their lifespan, produce half the CO2 emissions of diesel vehicles.
The VW group sold more than 80,000 plug-in vehicles over the same time period, with a little more than half of them being completely electric equal to one-tenth the Tesla production. It might appear like a leap forward for the German company that is also the largest automaker in the world. However, when you consider that VW produced more than eleven million automobiles in the year 2019, 40k is just an insignificant amount.
Electric vehicles aren’t something that have been around for long in this German company. VW introduced its first mass-market electric vehicle, the e-Up!, in 2013 that was also the year that Tesla introduced their Model S’s first Model S cars. The distinction to consumers is that the electric model was able to travel just 93 miles and that of the Model S 265 miles. The 2020 Tesla Model S is now close to 400 miles with a single charge. For a lot of people who are considering electric cars, it is apparent that the VW Model S hasn’t been able to keep up with demand.
The Tesla Model S takes part in an electric car rally in Latvia on July 23, 2019. EPA-EFE/Toms Kalnins
Is VW trying to prove that sustainable cars are the primary goal? Is it just an attempt to boost its image? The big corporations are conscious of the fact that “edgy” branding strategies appeal to consumers and sustainability is prominent in the consciousness of the general public. Nike’s advertising campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick is not the only one, and most importantly, Apple perfected the use of “radical” imagery to sell things decades ago.
Sure, VW has a long way to go, and when you look at their website, electric vehicles make up a significant portion of the brand’s image. However, the challenge for VW is that an emerging electric vehicle company is able to sell 10 times the number of cars it is able to and at a much greater average selling cost.