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Living in the real world

There are lies, damned lies and statistics. This saying, popularised by Mark Twain back in 1906, has particular resonance when talking about the reporting of automotive emissions today.

Car manufacturers have had an annus horribilis - a Latin phrase meaning a "horrible year" - when it comes to their environmental credentials. There's no spin doctor alive or dead that could turn what has happened over the past 12 months into a good news story.

Volkswagen has taken the centre stage for all the wrong reasons. It's dirty little secret has become known as dieselgate. The German automaker is now feeling the reverberations. But it's not just VW that's feeling the effects of the emissions revelations. The entire automotive sector is now under more scrutiny than ever before.

The bad news in 2015 didn't start with dieselgate. There was the big debate about the value of the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) test - which compares the environmental performance of cars under similar conditions - back in the summer.

An under pressure European Union and embattled automakers conceded it wasn't fit for purpose. A new solution, the Worldwide Harmonised Light vehicles (WLTP), is now on the table. It's said to measure performances more accurately and should be applied in 2017.

All in all it is pretty messy at the moment. Take emissions reporting in the context of car taxation for example. The tax regime across Europe is predominately based on carbon emissions of cars, but emissions data is now being questioned as a result of debates on NEDC and the dieselgate revelations.

It makes me wonder if cars could be in the wrong tax bracket based on their lab vrs their real world emissions. But focusing on all the bad stuff also means that the good stuff has been drowned out. Let's not forget there is some good news.

The efforts and the achievements that have been made by the automotive industry to improve vehicle efficiency and cleanliness deserve merit. This is not to say what has happened in 2015 should be ignored, but looking at the wider context is important too. The response to the issues is what matters now.

PSA Peugeot Citroen has been bold - some may say brave - in its response. To improve fuel economy information it has agreed to work with non government organisation, Transport & Environment, to measure and publicize real-world fuel economy figures.

Carlos Tavares, Chairman of the Managing Board of PSA Peugeot Citroen, says it is a clear demonstration that a carmaker and independent NGOs can reach agreement for the benefit of customer information. Let's see what happens. What I think we can all agree on is that something new is needed to replace what we currently have.

This is especially true when turning to action on climate change. We need to get real here too. Al Gore, former US Vice President, calls climate change the inconvenient truth.

Transport - and the motor industry - has a pivotal role to play in reducing global emissions and supporting the take up of clean tech. Fleet buyers are really important in this context. You are the driving force behind the car business in Europe.

It's not the politicians in Paris that are the decision makers, it's people like you in the fleet business. Collectively we have the power to shape the future of the automotive business and the type of cars that come onto the roads.

There's a big opportunity to make a difference and a we big responsibility to do the right thing. Let's make it a smart choice.

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CV Bloggers

Jonathan Green
Smart Mobility Management -

Jonathan Green is Editor of Smart Mobility Management and a contributor to Fleet Europe and Global Fleet. He gets excited about investigating how corporations and suppliers can become better at what they do, and how trends in the market and wider society influence the fleet, travel and mobility marketplace. A recent convert to the world of writing Jonathan has previously managed corporate fleet and business travel programmes and has 7 years experience as a consultant in business transformation and change.

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