Volkswagen has one of the poorest records amongst volume vehicle manufacturers in terms of reducing the average CO2/km emissions from its new car fleet but this week it launches a new print campaign in Germany with the central message ‘Responsibility for the environment and for society.” The message goes on to say that drivers carry a lot of responsibility, and that the same goes for manufacturers.

Having failed to sell vehicles according to their environmental credentials in the past, and facing the threat of tough legislation from Europe, vehicle manufacturers are now falling over themselves to claim environmentally-aware customers as their own. This is particularly the case in Germany where a huge debate has been raging between the environmentalists demanding more progress and industrialists who say that jobs are at risk.

“With this campaign we want to bring out our innovation, our achievements and our long-standing environmental competence. Our aim is to guarantee sustainable mobility for our customers,” said Jochen Sengpiehl, head of Volkswagen brand passenger car marketing in an interview with Automobilwoche.

The campaign features three products from the Volkswagen model range represented as a natural part of the environment. For example, a red VW Beetle is photographed as a ladybird. Accompanying text gives some technical detail related to Volkswagen’s environmental achievements. The print campaign is accompanied by a brochure that explains the different environmental technologies offered by Volkswagen such as TSI, TDI and DSG. The campaign will refer to the launch of the Passat Blue Motion.

Volkswagen is a prime example of vehicle manufacturers developing environmental technologies but failing to market them. The three litre Lupo, first launched at the end of the 1990s, was dropped after slow sales related to its high EUR15,500 price. Volkswagen argues that customers were not prepared to pay a higher price to be environmentally friendly and uses this is a defence for its poor performance in reducing average CO2/km emissions from its new car fleet.

According to data compiled by RL Polk Marketing Systems published by Transport & Environment in its report How Clean is your Car Brand?, Volkswagen ranked 14th of 20 brands in reducing CO2 emissions between 1997 and 2996. In 1997 its average emissions were 170g/km, compared with 159 g/km in 2006. This is less than half of a targeted 22g/km reduction, agreed with Acea and the European Union.