Carbon information is a helpful driver

When I first saw the press release from member, Peter Knights, at  claiming company car drivers had reduced their annual COemissions, I feared another carbon offsetting story.  But this is actually really interesting data.

In analysing the Lex fleet of 178,000 vehicles, a real reduction in CO2 emissions has been identified relating to the lower rating of many modern cars.  The data reveals a fall of six tax bands in six years on average with a concentration at the 155g/km level.  Some company car drivers are opting for vehicles at 110g/km, where the lowest was 130g/km in 2000.

Here we have a public relations story of carrot rather than stick, with reduced tax on lower emitting vehicles.  In addition, communications have provided consumers with real information on which to base their decisions as they can clearly compare CO2 levels. 

Smaller diesel engines are making a contribution here, despite a lack of UK government support for the fuel.  New hybrid vehicles are also becoming more popular – although some of that is undoubtedly about being seen to be green – but still a step in the right direction.

All the positive work the motor industry has done in helping reduce the CO2 impact of vehicles is not widely acknowledged by media, politicians or environmentalists, however.  The EU has announced proposals for CO2 emissions from new cars to be an average 130g/km by 2012 – which is a significant reduction and a challenge with existing technologies. 

Car manufacturers have been accused of lobbying against such a reduction – which is interesting in public relations terms.  The reaction to business attempting to enter into dialogue over such an important issue is immediately seen as resistance rather than evidence of two-way symmetric communications. 

The  calls for all stakeholders – Government, oil companies, suppliers and motorists – to be engaged in reducing CO2.  This again reflects “best practice” public relations regarding stakeholder partnerships.  Indeed, the industry could be said to reflect the consumer perspective more than politicians here, as there will be considerable cost to the European consumer with these proposals.

Of course the motor industry needs to be responsible over environmental issues – but a bit more carrot might prove more effective here too.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

4 thoughts on “Carbon information is a helpful driver”

  1. I know there is a link between the engine size, but is there a link between how much emissions the car kicks out and the level of road tax? If so, would it be a good idea for campaigns to directly link the emissions to how much people’s pockets will be hit? This rules out company car drivers, but I expect they have a different system to car owners.

  2. Road tax is based on CO2 emissions and engine type (ie petrol, diesel, alternative) – see http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/OwningAVehicle/HowToTaxYourVehicle/DG_10012524

    The issue with using economic arguments exclusively is that this is only one dimension. For example, with my Peugeot 107, I pay low road tax and it doesn’t cost a lot to run on petrol. With my Merc SLK, I pay much higher road tax and also in fuel. But that is my choice – I am prepared to pay more because the car is my preference for longer journeys as it is safer and as an automatic with cruise control, more pleasant to drive. In the Summer, I like to have the roof down too. But for around town, if taking my dogs out and to avoid depreciating the Merc unnecessarily, I choose the Peugeot. I love the Merc and so choose to spend my money that way. I am sure if I were rich enough to own a Ferrari, then the road tax and fuel economy aren’t going to be an issue to me.

    The environment argument is more complex than simple emissions and fuel economy though. It depends on usage, driving style, whether stuck in traffic, etc etc. I still prefer carrots and education to economic penalities that ultimately only benefit the treasury (I’d like to think that meant us too, but I’m not convinced).

  3. Oh yes right enough, I went to the TRL launch of their new simulator in Bellshill and the aim there was to teach drivers fuel efficient driving and I get the connection between that versus fuel consumption which of course is a big concern for hauliers.

    I’m not sure what you mean by carrots?

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