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Car industry seeks to reassure motorists on emissions

SMMT video aimed at combatting “widespread confusion” over car emissions prompts criticism from environmental groups

The UK motor industry has sought to “reassure and informâ€? motorists amid “widespread confusionâ€? over car exhaust technology and official emissions testing, prompting criticism from air quality groups.

Screen shot of SMMT's new animated video

Screen shot of SMMT’s new animated video

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) today (February 25) launched a new promotional video in a bid to demonstrate the automotive industry’s “ongoing commitment to improving air quality and reducing emissionsâ€? ahead of the 2015 Geneva Motor Show in March.

SMMT’s claims were branded as “laughable” by ClientEarth, while NGO Transport & Environment said the video was a “marketing gimmick”.

But SMMT warned that consumers’ “confusionâ€? over emissions testing and “advances in car technologyâ€? could adversely impact on take-up of the latest low emission vehicles and “undermine the UK’s efforts to meet strict air quality and climate change obligationsâ€?.

Testing

The move comes in the wake of the high profile scandal surrounding SMMT member Volkswagen, which admitted in September that it had installed software designed to ‘cheat’ legal emissions tests on millions of its cars around the world.

“To suggest that the car industry in the UK and Europe is blazing some sort of low-emissions trail is laughableâ€? – Alan Andrews, ClientEarth

The EU has now agreed to bring in stricter car emissions testing based on real world driving from 2017, although critics have said the new tests should be stricter still and brought in sooner (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Following this, SMMT’s new short, consumer-facing animated film claims that the latest Euro 6 cars are the “cleanest in historyâ€? and highlights industry investment in ultra low emission petrol, diesel, electric, hybrid and hydrogen cars.

“Automotive manufacturers are dedicated to producing the cleanest ever vehicles and invest billions developing innovative new technologies to improve our air. We believe this record of progress is one that needs to be told” – Mike Hawes, SMMT

According to SMMT, air quality and climate change “are two of the biggest issues facing society, yet there is widespread confusion about the advances in new car technology and official emissions testing that, if uncorrected, could limit adoption of the latest low emission vehicles and undermine the UK’s efforts to meet strict air quality and climate change obligations.

“With this in mind, the SMMT has produced a new animation to reassure and inform motorists.â€?

The trade body goes on to say that new cars have “significantly reduced emissions compared to their historic counterparts, with diesel cars saving three million tonnes of CO2 since 2002, cutting nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 84% in 15 years and virtually eliminating soot particulates – sometimes referred to as black carbon.â€?

Criticism

In response, ClientEarth air quality lawyer Alan Andrews said: “The car industry has failed to produce diesel cars that meet legal emissions limits outside of a lab and fiercely lobbied against the introduction of effective new regulations. The new tests coming in next year allow such a high margin of error that new diesel cars will be allowed to emit more than double the legal pollution limit until 2019.

“So to suggest that the car industry in the UK and Europe is blazing some sort of low-emissions trail is laughable.â€?

In addition, European NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) described the SMMT video as a “marketing gimmickâ€? which “misses the point of the future of cleaner carsâ€?.

Julia Poliscanova, clean vehicles officer at T&E, said that while today’s diesel vehicles were cleaner than “the toxic guzzlers of the past centuryâ€? they still produce more CO2 emissions and air pollution compared to hybrids and electric vehicles.

SMMT is seeking to 'reassure' motorists over emissions

SMMT is seeking to ‘reassure’ motorists over emissions

She said: “The point is that new diesel is only clean on paper, as the recent dieselgate has demonstrated so clearly – numerous authoritative studies have shown that today’s cars on the road emit on average five times more NOx emissions and 40% more carbon than prescribed in law.â€?

She also argued that the new EU real driving emissions tests would not apply to all new vehicles until 2019 “and even then the industry will be allowed to emit double the pollution standards due to the successful lobbying of key SMMT membersâ€?

Ms Poliscanova said: “Europe should end its obsession with the outdated diesel technology and leapfrog to the innovative solutions that the rest of the world is currently leading on; hybrid gasoline, electric and other clean alternative powertrains.â€?

SMMT

The video follows SMMT’s ‘myth-busting’ diesel campaign launched in March 2015, which also prompted criticism from air quality campaigners (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Commenting on the latest video, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Air quality and emissions are issues the motor industry takes very seriously. Automotive manufacturers are dedicated to producing the cleanest ever vehicles and invest billions developing innovative new technologies to improve our air. We believe this record of progress is one that needs to be told.â€?

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