I have a public transport journey to report on. Yippee! After I published my blog post last Sunday, I went on a trip to Falmouth taking the mainline train to Truro then switching to the delightful branch line to Falmouth. The stations on the mainline to London tend to be open and impersonal, with open fronted, metal and glass shelters, which always seem to face the prevailing wind, so you get wet when it rains, which is often in a Cornish winter. Whereas the branch line has colourfully painted wooden shelters with seats and protection from the wind. There are also cheerful well-tended planters to provide more colour. We have four branch lines in Cornwall (five if you count the one that starts in Devon and comes into the county to visit Calstock & Gunnislake) which allow some people access to some places, but it is not enough for effective travel around the county; north east Cornwall is totally inaccessible. Some of the trips are tortuous; Liskeard to Gunnislake, which is a short hop in the car is a roundabout trip which gets exponentially worse if you start from nearby Looe. I can understand why delegates for the G7 conference in St Ives, where Climate Change is on the agenda, are arriving by helicopter; getting from Newquay Airport to St Ives is a nightmare despite there being train stations in Newquay (nowhere near the airport) and St Ives.
I spent the rest of the week in front of my PC, including doing my Spanish lessons on Duolingo. I noticed an ad asking me if I wanted to make a claim against Vauxhall. Intrigued I clicked the linked and discovered a very murky world and ‘thermal windows’. The link took me to a website set up by the law firm Harcus Parker which encourages people who have owned or leased diesel Vauxhall cars to claim against the German manufacturer Opel, which produces all Vauxhalls sold in the UK, for misrepresenting the cars’ compliance with emissions regulations. You may remember that Volkswagen were found to have used defeat devices to fool emissions tests well it appears that ‘thermal windows’ have the same effect. Thermal windows work by switching off emissions control systems when the ambient air temperature is above or below a narrow thermal window. They are designed to protect the engine from damage. The accusation is that these thermal windows were set at a level, which meant the car passed the emissions test, but in real life conditions exceeded the limits. A recent (17th December 2020) Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) found that thermal windows only allowed exemption from emissions regulations in extremely limited circumstances. It looks like Harcus Parker are going to have fun; their action extends to all diesel cars according to Fleet News. Interestingly when potential claimants signing up to the case each sign what is in effect a pledge, that they will take into account – when deciding whether or not to settle their claims – any remedial action or other environmental measures taken by a particular car manufacturer.
I wasn’t feeling well disposed to motor manufactures after reading about thermal windows and defeat devices, I felt even less well disposed when I read this article City drivers ‘should think twice’ before buying SUVs and then the report it is was based on, Mindgames on Wheels. In short we have been conned into buying unnecessary gas guzzlers by smart marketing tactics. The vast majority of SUVs never see a muddy field, only London streets. Why are they so aggressively marketed? Simple – greed, they are enormously profitable – the early SUVs provided a 25% profit, compared to just 5% on ordinary cars. Some more interesting stats:
- For every one fully electric vehicle sold in the UK in the last four years, 37 SUVs were sold.
- Globally, rising sales of SUVs are the second biggest cause of increasing carbon emissions (after power generation, but ahead of aviation and heavy industry)
- Air pollution, largely from motor traffic, kills between 28,000 and 36,000 people a year in the UK.
If you want to see an amusing piece of aggressive marketing produced by Saatchi & Saatchi for Toyota (it won an advertising prize) checkout Country Australia Border Security: Nothing Soft Gets In. If you watch the video, and I recommend you do, be warned it will curdle your skinny latte and vegans will need a lie down afterwards. Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi are definitely off my Christmas Card list.
Dodge have also been deleted from the list for this ad. I’m a tree hugging tofu munching vegan.
On a more serious note, this part of the report I found very depressing.
“European regulations say that 95 percent of a manufacturer’s fleet must meet emission standards. But crucially, for the time being, they can buy credits from rival manufacturers. And so it is that the electric car manufacturer Tesla has been selling credits to SUV manufacturer Fiat Chrysler, which has to spend up to £500m a year just to buy so-called ‘supercredits’. They are doing so because the SUV market remains highly profitable. It means that buyers of Tesla cars are inadvertently giving license to the sale of gas-guzzling monsters.”
Nice one Tesla – profit before planet, you are off the Christmas Card list.
The report has three clear recommendations:
- An end to SUV advertising
- A renewed commitment to tackling climate change from the Advertising Standards Authority implemented with new codes of practice.
- Reject the brief: advertising agencies must stop selling pollution
I will be campaigning to get those recommendations implemented. Hopefully with the G7 and COP 26 being in the UK this year my MP, and others, will be more inclined to listen. The advertising industry have the #ChangeTheBrief and #AdNetZero campaigns, I doubt we will see Saatchi & Saatchi using those hashtags anytime soon.
A little ask
Writing and report reading is thirsty work and using public transport expensive. If you would like to buy me a beer or a coffee you can via this link – buy me a coffee.