Volkswagen’s message to Greenpeace – put-up! or shut-up!

I’ve made no secret of my disgust at Greenpeace’s recent anti-Volkswagen campaign, The Dark Side – it was misleading, divisive and downright ignorant. These raging activists took Volkswagen to task for their failure to sign up to more stringent CO2 targets in Europe, castigating them for lobbying against the proposed 30 per cent threshold that environmentalists were campaigning to become law.

Let’s be absolutely clear, this wasn’t experts presenting a well thought out analysis of the car industry, it was self-righteous vigilantes treating the public’s intelligence with utter contempt.

To quote some of the Greenpeace rhetoric, “(Volkswagen)…are not as efficient as you might think. For every ‘greener’ vehicle VW sells, it shifts around 15 others which emit much more C02. Volkswagen adds a huge price mark-up for its greener vehicles – way above the cost of the technology – as it tries to cash in on your green conscience.”

Introducing the NEW Volkswagen up!

Anyone with an ounce of awareness will know that Volkswagen have been developing their new hyper-efficient city car for most of the past decade, it was first shown in 2007 as a rear-wheel-drive mid-engined concept and is intended to be built by at least three of the VW Group marques.

So it sounds like a pretty serious effort to reduce global CO2 emissions, given that most of VW’s customers live in cities.

It’s also designed from the outset as a new affordable small car range, although Volkswagen have not yet confirmed pricing of the up! It’s an entirely new design, offering maximum space on a minimal footprint (3.54 x 1.64 m) and will be launched in Europe in December.

There are three versions for different budgets and needs: take up! is the entry-level car, move up! the comfort-oriented model and high up! the top version. At the car’s market launch, there will also be two models based on the high up!: up! black and up! white.

Volkswagen up!

Making its debut in the up! is a new generation of three-cylinder petrol engines, with outputs of 59 bhp and 74 bhp. Combined fuel consumption as a BlueMotion Technology version (including a Stop/Start system) is 67 mpg (59 bhp), and CO2 emissions for this version are less than 100 g/km. There are also plans for an up! with electric drive.

No doubt we could criticise VW for not making BlueMotion the standard across the range, but let’s remember VW are a commercial enterprise who ultimately can only survive by offering products which customers want to buy – they are giving customers a choice and no doubt will focus even more of their future development on BlueMotion technologies if buyers vote with their cheque books.

The same thing happened with large luxury cars – the availability of more fuel efficient 3-litre turbo diesel engines eventually made V12 and V8 models about as commonplace as the white rhino.

Efficiency without compromising safety

An important new safety technology in the up! is the optional City Emergency Braking system. It is automatically active at speeds under 18mph, and uses a laser sensor to detect the risk of an impending collision.

Depending on speed and situation, City Emergency Braking can reduce accident severity by initiating automatic brake interventions that can even avoid a crash. So far, the up! is the only vehicle in its segment to be offered with this function.

At 3.54 metres in length and 1.64 metres in width and 1.48 metres in height, the up! is one of the smallest four-seater cars. Its overall length consists of short body overhangs and a long wheelbase of 2.42 metres. Use of space in the car is exceptionally good, because of the wheelbase, which is one of the longest in the segment, combined with an engine that is mounted well forward on the front axle.

The 251-litre boot is also significantly larger than is typical in this class and when the rear seat is fully folded, cargo space is increased to 951 litres.

The most economical journey is also one that takes the most efficient route

Volkswagen up! - Interior

For the first time in a Volkswagen, the maps + more system is now being offered, which is a mobile Personal Infotainment Device (PID). In the economically priced up!, this is an equally economical system that was developed to organise navigation, telephone, information and entertainment, and was designed in cooperation with Navigon, one of the world’s leading suppliers of navigation systems.

The user simply snaps the PID into place above the centre console. Unlike many other similar systems of this type, maps + more melds with the car’s network of systems more effectively: navigation, telephone and infotainment can be controlled and viewed via the maps + more touchscreen, which can also be used to view vehicle information, such as the display of the parking sensors (where fitted).

Apps specially developed for the up! also let users extend maps + more to meet their specific needs and therefore make it possible for buyers to take advantage of future traffic avoidance systems.

Volkswagen’s message to Greepeace

I suspect Volkswagen would be delighted to show Greenpeace their new efficient city car range, then perhaps the environmental lobbyists could turn their efforts towards encouraging people to buy this sub-100 g/km car and thereby help save fragile environments like the Arctic.

In fact I’m certain Volkswagen would welcome such support. Over to you Greenpeace..


  • Javi

    agree on your text steve,
    i have to say that i´m very tired of all the “eco nuts” that they just think they are right and all the rest of the people should submit to their thoughts. quite sad, stupid and unnecessary at the same time.
    I´m all forward about greener cars for many reasons, specially for cleaner cities, which is important. but for many other reasons also. 
    At the same time the development of technology towards greener cars is making the car industry re-think their ideas about all the elements that configure a car. specially we are viewing a huge improvement on the engine technology and arquitecture for better efficiency.

    All changes needs time and i think whoever talks about a change should propose an idea with sense and explain the “way” and possibilities , so people can understand , argue and choose.

    And let´s face it…. if CO2 really was going to “kill the world”….. the army would be in the streets shooting at anything that may produce it.
    People is not THAT innocent, please.

    Would be good people can inform their selves more about CO2 and other basic elements from nature before judging about who is right and who is wrong. because sometimes this looks like we go back to the era of the romans choosing who will die or not and the coliseum.

  • Andy

    Steve. Are Greenpeace making false claims? You don’t deny their statements. The point is, Greenpeace say, VW make green eco cars ( because there is public demand)  but VW lobby against green laws. That could be called hypocritical. Perhaps you could explain why VW want to keep CO2 current levels.

    • Andy, sorry for taking so long to respond to your questions. It might be worth you reading my original post about the Greenpeace ‘Dark Side’ campaign –

      In response to your question – “whether Greenpeace made false claims?”, as far as I can tell they did not, however their allegations were certainly ‘very’ misleading. For example, they seem to have used published average C02 emissions for the automotive sector, but of course these are out of date (in terms of the cars currently being produced) to be specific, they quoted data up to 2009. Their research smacks of someone who knows very little about cars looking through a spreadsheet and then drawing conclusions, whereas with just a small amount of insight they would have been aware of models such as the VW up!, their new Urban City concept and the strides VW are making with the efficiency of their four-cylinder TSI engines.

      There is a race going on amongst all major car makers to bring more models ‘under’ the 100g/km of CO2 threshold, we are in a period of significant year on year reduction of CO2 across the industry and every car maker knows (including Volkswagen) that these numbers are now a real source of competitive advantage and correlate directly with the revenues they bring in each quarter.

      Greenpeace conveniently omitted this information from their propaganda pitch, which undermines the whole point of their message.

      In terms of why would Volkswagen ‘not’ sign up to a mandatory set of targets, I believe I’ve explained in both of my articles. Any such warrant would be a business risk, which would need to be declared in the company’s financial and environmental reports and if for whatever reason it became more challenging than expected, then failing to achieve it would destroy shareholder value and potentially be very costly to VW’s management team. I certainly wouldn’t sign up to such an undertaking by choice and since VW are working towards massive reductions in CO2 emissions across the board, how does it benefit their shareholders by putting their necks publicly on the block?

      Bear in mind that VW or any other car company can only reduce these figures if customers choose to buy the products, so there are dependencies which are outside their control. Greenpeace’s suggestion that Volkswagen should only sell cars which meet these targets is naive in the extreme. Last time I checked we live in a competitive democratic market, therefore any company foolish enough to dictate their products to customers would quickly go out of business.

      So overall, this is a propaganda campaign, pure and simple, and Volkswagen are merely the lame duck that Greenpeace are using to make their point.

  • John Morgan

    Isn’t the Greenpeace beef that although VW have the power to roll out a range of high performance, low emission vehicles – that they are instead spending money on lobbying to stop European laws that migh force the entire sector to change.

    Which a) seems a bit daft – wouldn’t VW be better placed to see low emission cars, if such a law existed and b) a bit corrupt- Companies lobbying politicians to get their way, just because they can, seems inherently wrong