Motor industry public relations goes green in 2007

The news from auto PRs in 2007 will be green as German car analyst Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer says the 104 new car models being launched in Europe will be feature engines making them more eco-friendly.   The number of launches is almost one-third more than in 2006 – making PRs in the motor industry busier than ever.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

7 thoughts on “Motor industry public relations goes green in 2007”

  1. I realise we’re a long way off from having decent public transport,and so a car seems a necessity for many. We have one. But isn’t it relatively far greener to run a second-hand car, taking account of the embodied energy it represents, than incur all the environmental costs associated with the manufacture of a new machine, regardless of how emissions-friendly its engine might be?

  2. This is a valid question as there are always complex equations in understanding the impact of production versus usage. I know someone at Cardiff University who can probably answer this more fully and will ask him to post.

  3. Thanks, Heather. I can’t help feeling that my take is influenced by my enthusiasm for classic cars and especially bikes, so it would be good to hear an informed view.

  4. This is an interesting issue. First of all, the assumption that public trransport is greener than cars. This is a widely held view, but remember many of our trains are rather dated diesels without catalysts or particulate filters. Buses are medium-heavy commercial vehicles with large diesel engines. When a bus is full it is much cleaner even than a car with 5 people, but when it is empty it is much dirtier and uses a lot more CO2. On the older car issue; here we have to trade off the captured energy (about 20%-30% of lifecyle energy input is in production, 5%-10% in recycling, which though generally lauded is not impact-free; both assuming a 12 year-ish lifespan and about 100k miles) against the pollution of toxic emissions. Cars are getting cleaner with each generation of Euro emissions standards and that needs to be offset against the less clean emissions from the older car. This is not an easy trade-off and depends on social priorities – it is a political decision in the end: do we want to save energy, raw materials or CO2 in production or do we want cleaner air? In terms of CO2, although modern cars are usually more energy efficient per unit of power output, because they tend to be bigger and heavier than older cars (on average – e.g. more SUVs, MPVs, etc.) this advantage is often lost when we look at CO2 emissions per vehicle kilometre. On the other hand, we now have more diesels, which are lower CO2 emitters on the whole. As you can see, it all gets rather complicated. What is needed is a proper lifecycle analysis, but that is expensive. Remember also that research into environmental issues is not well funded. For example, I reckon that all the world’s climate researchers’ budgets put together would probably not cover the budget for developing a single new car – I suspect that is a good reflection of our priorities. Facts and data do not come for free and if we do not pay for this we are condemned to make uninformed decisions. I am speaking as a researcher, of course!

  5. Paul, thank you for that. You set out the compromises involved very lucidly. I’m particularly interested in the figures linked to initial manufacture and eventual reprocessing. I agree that the funding imbalance reflects our skewed priorities, or at least the priorities of those with money and/or power.

    Tom Paine had some fun with a lifecycle analysis that suggested a Toyota Prius is little better overall than a gas-guzzler Mercedes, but I can’t get his link (FWIW) to open. Are you aware of that study, and do you have any comment about its credibility?

  6. Thank you Paul. The funding of research is an interesting aspect – as seen also in healthcare and nutrition (to mention just two other areas), without robust independent data, it is almost impossible for the public (or government) to make informed decisions. It would be good to see industries be prepared to put some of their money into more research, but they would need to be willing to address things then that they might not like, and unfortunately most companies aren’t yet that open to recognising where they might need to experience some pain for long-term gain. The same is also true for governments, who seem to want research only to prove their viewpoint.

  7. Ian, I have also seen that US research and it has been much debated. The Prius’ job is primarily to reduce toxic emissions and it does that well. CO2 reduction is also part of its brief and it performs well here too – on a par with many European small diesel cars. The US methodology looks at overall energy use, including manufacture, shipping (Prius is shipped to US from Japan, unlike most US SUVs) and without having studied their methodology in too much detail I expect manufacturing of battery and hybrid systems is also an issue. Also, sources in California suggest a Prius is likely to need two batteries during a typical lifespan – at considerable cost. I know from experiences in the MPG Marathon here in the UK, that hybrids do not tend to beat small diesel cars in fuel consumption (i.e. CO2) terms on real UK roads. Their main role is probably in getting us (and the industry) used to electric cars, in preparation for the fuel cell! In the meantime, expect more hybrids, including diesel versions – these would make a real difference.

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