When I first saw the press release from MIPAA member, Peter Knights, at Lex claiming company car drivers had reduced their annual CO2 emissions, 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 SMMT 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.