The automotive industry is no stranger to a scandal, and Dieselgate is certainly up there in terms of significance and long-term destructiveness.
Like many other industries, greenwashing and manipulation have been one of the most significant problems the sector has faced since it’s creation. So, what has changed since September 2015, when the news first broke?
Well, there has been a crackdown on automakers and a more intense focus on CO2 emissions, but it hasn’t completely eliminated problems, as we have seen a number of recalls and court cases since then; both inside and outside of Dieselgate.
So, given the current focus on the climate, it is paramount that we must address this ongoing issue and abolish it once and for all. Otherwise, there is simply no way of progressing, whether that’s from a business or an environmental perspective.
It is vital to the development of the wider transport sector; without trust between consumers and other businesses and authorities, you cannot ensure the cleaner and safer future we not only want but also need across the continent.
Many people believe that this needs to be addressed urgently, as we run the risk of going back to previous ways but, especially with more traditional and established players, this is nothing new. For the most part, they’ve got away with many things in the past. We are not just talking about emissions tests, but also consumer fatalities from faulty components and failed recalls. These things cost a tremendous amount of money, so many prefer to play the waiting game; which has backfired plenty of times.
For the long-term sustainability of transport, we must tackle this specific problem today and stamp some form of authority on large enterprises that operate how they want.
But how do we achieve this? For me, it is important that the industry introduces some form of European regulatory board to curtail greenwashing and manipulation of this level. With the EU on board, large corporations in the automotive space will have to listen.
Due to the cross-content business automakers rely on, Europe is a key market for most global players. Preventing automakers from reaching customers in EU countries if they do not meet the appropriate emissions levels or component standards, would instantly warrant a response from them.
They will have to oblige and follow the rules. Otherwise, they will lose millions. It is as simple as that.
Unfortunately, many of these companies do not care too much about the environment in comparison to the financial state of the business. So, for me, this is the only way to ensure cooperation. Ultimately, the household names that were punished with fines are still around today and, in certain cases, are doing better than ever before.
In fact, a survey conducted by PwC at the World Economic Forum last year showed that environmental concerns fell outside the top 10 main issues for CEOs of global companies. This isn’t specifically for the automotive industry, but it illustrates a clear reflection of where the focus is for most.
Greenwashing will not disappear overnight. But it can be suppressed through appropriate measures. To an extent, there is already some form of authority overseeing testing and quality control. However, like anything, people are easily manipulated through new cheating software such as what we saw with Dieselgate.
What’s to say there won’t be new manipulation software introduced to mask emissions or, at an extreme, bribery and deceptiveness that alters the results?
This isn’t so much an issue, but a process. These things happen inside and outside of the industry, so it is important to stay focused on creating the appropriate infrastructure and support. The main thing is to set the standard and then build from there. With time, you will identify and remove the problems.
Finally, a lot has changed since the arrival of Dieselgate. In fact, a lot has changed in 2020 alone.
The impact of COVID-19, which may have improved our global climate in the short term, has shifted the focus away from CO2 emissions within the automotive industry as companies and organisations are, ultimately, trying to survive and rebuild.
So, although the pandemic has seen a significant decline in emissions, it has also seen companies struggle to stay afloat. Understandably, they must prioritise this before anything else, or risk not making it to the end of the year.
This is definitely a case of taking one step forward, two steps back. These businesses are in charge of their future and must understand the sheer magnitude of their choices once they start to see some stability again.