With all the excitement coming out of San Francisco and Las Vegas this week, it’s easy to overlook the good ol’ Dee-troit Motor Show.
It’s been a relatively exciting affair, too. And from the level of publicity being generated by Chevrolet’s planet-friendly Volt concept, an optimist could perhaps be forgiven for hoping that the Motor City, birthplace of the gas-guzzler, might be accepting the realities of the effect of fossil fuels on the environment.
Er, no. Just to shatter that hope, the BBC today quotes extensively from DaimlerChrysler’s Chief Economist, Van Jolissaint, in the context a ‘private breakfast’ of industry peers yesterday morning. Mr Jolissaint, according to the Beeb, was pretty joli forthright in demonstrating his disdain for us “quasi-hysterical Europeans” and our “Chicken Little attitudes toward global warming”.
Stern is bunk, he continued, based on dubious economics, with global warming but a far-off risk of uncertain magnitude.
Let’s contrast Mr Jolissaint’s remarks in Detroit with some of the language on the parent company’s corporate website.
Taking centre-stage on the corporate front page is an announcement of DaimlerChrysler’s new BLUETEC joint-venture diesel engine, which promises ‘particularly clean, highly fuel-efficient passenger cars and SUVs with diesel engines’. So far so good.
Click through to the Sustainability page, and we’re reassured that ‘our vision is one of sustainable development – worldwide’. On the same page Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of DaimlerChrysler AG, tells us ‘we are committed to protecting the environment and meeting social needs within our company and in society in general’. Excellent.
Dr Zetsche again, in DaimlerChrysler’s latest Sustainability Report, goes further:
We believe climate protection is one of the greatest challenges automakers face today, and our goal is to continue to improve our vehicles and production processes in order to further reduce pollutant emissions.
Page 44 of the report trumpets sustainability partnerships with the UN, while page 56 outlines a vision for climate-friendly motoring involving a long-term strategy to develop viable fuel cell technology, backed up by cleaner and more efficient petrol engines in the short and medium term. All great stuff – I’m impressed.
But which DaimlerChrysler was Mr Jolissaint representing at yesterday’s breakfast? the responsible corporate citizen as depicted in its own Sustainability Report, proudly working with the US government to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles? Or the head-in-the-sand, founder member or the Global Climate
Coalition, slated by one US environmental think-tank as being “at the bottom of the heap when it comes to addressing greenhouse gas emissions“, ?
Two great names may have merged, but I suspect the cohesion of both policy and attitude between Detroit and Stuttgart is perhaps rather less complete than we’ve been led to believe.
Disclaimer: The H&K London Public Affairs team works for Toyota, arguably the leader in hybrid automotive technology, although I don’t personally work on the account. But I do care about climate change. Mr Jolissaint, you should too.
[EDIT 12.45 11/1] Just noticed (thanks, Statcounter) that someone from Chrysler Motor Corporation, Royal Oak, Michigan, read this at 12.27. Woot!