Sep 10 2008

The coming people’s revolt against car companies

Published by at 2:24 pm under Europe,Opinion

First published on my old blog on 23/1/2007.

Porsche is Germany’s most successful car builder. It’s boss, Wendelin Wiedeking, is Germany’s highest paid executive and acknowledged by many as Germany’s best manager. Which makes it all the more remarkable how out of touch he can be with underlying currents in the community – particularly those which might threaten the Porsche share price. 

My gut tells me there is a real, strong and growing discomfort in the community about the changing climate and unease about driving environment-unfriendly vehicles. 

The unusual winter experienced by Europeans will be fueling this discomfort, as the raging storm over Germany did last week. Indications are, unusual natural occurrences will hit with increasing regularity and intensity in future. It’s not difficult to see that the uneasiness about the cars we are (still) driving will grow. 

If I’m right, the day is not far off when the first public protests will hit the streets against the big car companies – and the biggest culprit among them all, namely Porsche. When it happens, protesters will probably also target the owners of Porsche cars, because they are the one’s actually sacrificing our environment to satisfy a “speed-need”. In much the same way as 4X4 fanatics had fun on the unspoilt beaches of South Africa for years – and left devastated dunes and flora behind. 

Under the circumstances, I was surprised to see Wiedeking’s reaction this week to an EU Commission plan to tighten the regulations for CO2 emissions of cars in coming years. 

Either he disagrees with my “gut feel”, or he is simply arrogant. (Maybe, both?) 

The EU Commission said it intends to bring the ceiling for CO2 emissions per kilometer down to 120 gramme by 2012. Presently, the average emission level of Porsche cars stands at 297 gramme – more than double the intended maximum. 

But, do you think the Porsche management is defensive about its “environmental-disasters-on-wheels”? No, not at all. In fact, they went on record saying they’ll fight the 120 gramme plan.

I would fight very carefully and behind closed doors, if I was Wiedeking. 

To me “the people” are almost ripe for protests against Porsche (for its high CO2 emissions) and the car industry as a whole (for dragging its feet with new environment-friendly engines).

Consumers are eager to stop driving “dirty cars”. The first car manufacturer to bring a clever alternative to the market, might just be in for a pleasant surprise – a stampede for his product and a mass rejection of what we’ve been driving thus far. 

This hero – whoever he is – will probably do to the global car industry what Amazon did to the big book publishers a short 12 years ago.

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