Volkswagen Versus Greenpeace

You know what we liked recently? Volkswagen’s ad featuring a youthful Darth Vader failing to use the force on his dog and sandwich before having more luck with a VW Jetta. Unfortunately for VW, it’s ripe for parody – something that has not escaped (engage Clarkson mode) lentil-eating vegetarian disabled lesbians Greenpeace, who have rather hoisted Volkswagen by their own petard.

The Big G has hit back with what is undeniably a well-observed and -executed spot that should prove great viral fodder and cause VW a bit of a headache.

VW are represented by Vader and a giant VW-branded Death Star, while all the goodies from the Star Wars franchise represent the forces of peace, ecology and organic vegetables.

Greenpeace says that while VW is bringing down emissions in its sub-90g/km BlueMotion models, it’s actively lobbying against EU regulations designed to bring an European greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 30% of 1990’s levels by 2020. The green group also wants vehicle efficiency standards of 50g/km for cars and 88g/km for vans by 2030.

As part of European car lobby group ACEA, VW is unlikely to be alone in pressuring politicians to give the industry an easier ride in terms of emissions reduction targets, but they seem to have borne the brunt of Greenpeace’s broadside. That industry pressure is likely to be brought to bear on national politicians who always have one eye on the high skilled employment local car plants bring and, in essence, this is about an industry protecting its bottom line.

The lower the CO2 threshold gets, the smaller the margin gets due to all the R&D that needs to go into greater fuel efficiency. Efficient combustion engines and alt-fuel research doesn’t come cheap, so car manufacturers don’t like being under pressure to lower emissions further and further.

Greenpeace also says that Volkswagen artificially inflates prices for its ‘greener’ models and marginalises them within its fleet. A lengthy report contains Greenpeace’s working out but it will be easy for most in the industry to pick holes in the data analysis and corresponding assumptions; some stuff on the nature of the relationship between VW and regional/national governments may cause a few squirms in Wolfsburg though.

So, what next? The Greenpeace vid opens up a new attack on the industry that will need to be sustained and built upon if it’s to have any likely lasting impact. It also raises interesting questions regarding whether George Lucas approved of Greenpeace’s use of his characters, iconography and vision. Greenpeace has even gone as far as writing out its FAQ in infurating Yoda-esque drivel like this:

Hmm. Great disturbance in the Force I feel. Standing in the way VW is. Much to protect climate and planet they could do. Biggest and most powerful car company in Europe they are.

Where does VW go from here? Well, we all know what happened to Vader in the final analysis. And exactly who are the ewoks in all of this if VW is the dark lord of the Sith?

The Greenpeace report can be downloaded here; Greenpeace’s VW/Star Wars microsite is here.