In the United States, we often think of Volkswagen as a moderately green company -- an automaker responsible for small vehicles like the popular Golf and New Beetle, and one of the few companies to make diesel rides for the American market.
Across the pond, however, Greenpeace has singled out VW as Europe's least green automaker, and it's launched a full-scale marketing campaign to encourage the company to change its ways.
Greenpeace has leveled a number of complaints against Volkswagen, but two carry the most weight:
1. Despite being Europe's largest automaker and having ample resources to develop fuel-efficient cars, VW is lagging far behind competitors like BMW and Toyota.
2. Volkswagen is actively lobbying to counter tighter C02 emissions standards that are set to roll out across Europe in 2020.
These and other grievances are outlined in a 25-page report called "The Dark Side of Volkswagen". Some of Greenpeace's solutions to those problems seem a little pie-in-the-sky, like insisting that Volkswagen make pricey BlueMotion technology standard on all vehicles. Others appear fair, like encouraging VW to "Publicly support the EU target of 30% emissions reductions by 2020". Still others could go either way, like the demand that VW "make its entire fleet oil-free before 2040".
The most interesting part of all this, however, is Greenpeace's tone. While characteristically strident, the nonprofit makes a point of targeting VW's corporate policies, not individuals, and certainly not the owners of Volkswagen cars and trucks. At the launch of its "Volkswagen: The Dark Side" campaign, Greenpeace's Emma Gibson had some savvy words to say:
"There is good in VW, its customers tend to care about the environment more than most, and VW is so big it could change the global car industry if it used its size to roll out cleaner vehicles and push for clean energy laws instead of blocking them".
The "Dark Side" campaign
Greenpeace's grassroots campaign to change VW is clever, funny, and engaging (which is perhaps more than we could say of Lexus' similarly titled campaign for the CT 200h called "The Darker Side of Green"). The materials riff on Volkswagen's award-winning Super Bowl ad called "The Force", using a lilliputian Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and other rebels to counter VW's diminutive Darth Vader.
The first video in the campaign is widely available, but to see the follow-up, Greenpeace asks its fans to sign a petition encouraging VW to change its ways. For those who do, Greenpeace deploys a dose of game theory to get them to spread the word: share the "Dark Side" campaign and motivate enough Facebook friends, and Greenpeace will send you a t-shirt.
We've pasted the first video below for reference. To catch the second, sign the petition (or, you know, just scroll a little further down the page).