It doesn’t seem fair, either, that the cost of the crash-impact safety, which has to be built into an A-sector car to enable its passengers to survive an impact with a large, heavy SUV, is carried by the A-segment car’s buyer alone. In 2001, Bernd Pischetsrieder, then head of VW, wistfully pointed out that if you took the safety and environmental equipment out of a standard VW small family car and laid it out on a workshop floor, you’d be looking at the cost of a complete VW small family car in Brazil. Since then, his example will have become more extreme.
What’s more, no one has yet explained how 1.2 million new A-sector car buyers a year being forced into purchasing bigger and more thirsty cars, or used cars without the most modern safety and emissions equipment, will benefit European CO2 emissions, air pollution or road safety.
The EU’s new emissions legislation has put the economics of car making into a tumble dryer where profit is as much dependent on not paying fines as it is making profitable cars as efficiently as possible.
All the while, it seems car makers are free to carry any amount of penalty-free energy in a lithium ion battery car. Porsche’s new Taycan, for example, like all battery-electric cars, has zero tailpipe emissions, but it isn’t an environmental-free lunch and, using the latest UK energy consumption CO2 figures, the Turbo model’s best-case ‘well-to-wheel’ greenhouse-gas emissions are 92g/km*. You might wonder also how it is that the buyer of such expensive battery-electric cars are subsidised by the government to the tune of £3500 against the purchase price, with additional generous tax benefits in running the car.
True environmental cost
It’s inconvenient truths like this that, Tavares thinks, are examples of the “superficiality of thinking” around the issue of CO2 reduction at the level of European governments and the EU.
“The reality is,” he said, “if you only look at tailpipe emissions and not the vehicle’s life cycle, then you are never going to see the true cost to the environment. And there is no European agency at the moment which coordinates and counts these things.”
What’s more, Tavares has accused ministers of the European Parliament of environmental grandstanding.
“There have been extreme positions coming from countries which don’t have an automobile industry,” he said last year after the parliament’s vote. “Where was the mandate?”
There were, however, equally split positions within member countries. Even in car-producing Germany, there was a desire for greater leniency on CO2 from the transport and economy ministries, while the environment and finance took tougher stances.