Greenwashing in the Automobile Industry

I had never heard the term greenwashing before class, however I was familiar with the definition. Through my public health courses, I was educated about the misconceptions behind food labeling. I learned there was little to no governmental regulation on a product’s marketing labels besides organic/GMO regulation. For example, grass-fed, cage-free, natural, all-natural, as well as others aren’t regulated the way consumers think. After looking into greenwashing some more, I found that the food industry was not the only industry partaking in these fallacies.

One example of greenwashing is in the automobile industry. General motors has sought to promote its production and development of fuel-efficient vehicles. In 2007, General Motors launched its “Gas-Friendly to Gas-Free” campaign, attempting to reframe the company as environmentally progressive. Despite this, general motors continues to be the leading producer of gas-guzzler automobiles. The campaign highlights five ways Chevrolet is “greening” its industry: increasing fuel efficiency; producing vehicles that can run on E85 ethanol; and developing hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel cells. Since the launch of the campaign, Chevy’s website, commercials and print ads regularly contain green-friendly images. What is misleading about General Motors efforts is the extent to which the company has advertised the green technologies, while still heavily producing gas-guzzling vehicles. What is worse, the company claimed to be a fuel solutions leader, while working behind the scenes to hinder attempts to increase fuel economy standard policy. One of General Motors ads states that Chevrolet currently sells seven vehicles that get at least 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Although this is accurate, the campaign fails to note that General Motors currently produces 51 other models that get less than 30 mpg, including 35 that get less than 20 mpg. Another General Motors ad promotes the Chevy Equinox as a hydrogen fuel cell concept car. The ad states “sustainable technology for a better environment.” Yet to date, General Motors has put only 100 of these cars on the road as a test  and in all likelihood the cost of mass-producing these cars remains too high for success. When consumers see the word “green”, they often feel better about their purchase and support it without question.

It is clear all industries are taking notice of the sustainability trend that has been and is currently happening in our world. It is important for consumers to make the connect that everything they read is not always true.


3 thoughts on “Greenwashing in the Automobile Industry

  1. I was not aware that the automotive industry also uses greenwashing to market their products. However I am not surprised because this tactic can be very beneficial to the producer. I wonder if a lot of people believed General Motors and purchased a vehicle thinking it was environmentally beneficial. Thanks for the info!

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