This March, Chevrolet will start providing customers with information on a number of the environmental features of their vehicles, via “Ecologic” environmental window labels that will initially appear on the 2012 Sonic, the company’s new sub-compact car.
Later on, labeling will be rolled out across the entire 2013 vehicle line in North America, and in doing so, Chevrolet will be the first automotive brand to provide a label of this kind on its vehicles.
The Ecologic labeling initiative provides a life cycle assessment of sorts, since it provides information over three distinct phases of the vehicle’s life, which Chevrolet defines as follows:
- Before the road: Environmental aspects related to manufacturing and assembly
- On the road: Fuel-saving technologies featured on the vehicle
- After the road: What happens at the end-of-vehicle life, by detailing the percentage, by weight, of the vehicle that can be recycled.
To ensure the credibility of the initiative, Chevrolet is partnering with Two Tomorrows, an independent sustainability agency, who will audit the data for each vehicle.
Of course, just sticking an environmental label on their cars doesn’t make them more environmentally friendly, and Chevrolet recognizes this. But as Bill Devine, Chevrolet’s cross brand marketing manager told me, “Ecologic would ring hollow if we didn’t have some proof points in the market.”
Mr. Devine explained that some of these proof points (with regard to Chevrolet’s environmental credentials) are things such as range-extending electric vehicle technologies, which can be found on the Volt, along with increased choices of smaller, efficient vehicles, such as the aforementioned Sonic and the forthcoming Spark, which can each get 40 mpg. Mr Devine says these things indicate a transformation within the company, which only a few years ago thrived mainly on large trucks and SUVs.
Having said that, however, Chevrolet will continue to build large vehicles since they intend to remain a mass brand, serving a diverse customer base, some of whom require (or at least demand) large capacity trucks and SUVs.
So, how does the company respond to the potential criticism that the Ecologic labeling is just a green-washing exercise? Mr Devine points out that many people don’t realize how much their larger vehicles’ fuel usage has improved, but in any case, it’s not just about mileage, but how the cars and trucks are built. And with respect to this, the company has undertaken a number of improved manufacturing practices.
Chevrolet now boasts 81 landfill free plants globally, and has committed $40 million to invest in clean energy projects in America, allowing the company to save a projected 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Still, the main goal of the Ecologic initiative is to offer transparency regarding the environmental impact for each of their vehicles, and in fairness, the company isn’t just cherry-picking Ecologic labeling for use only on their most environmentally friendly cars – the big trucks and SUVs will get the same treatment too.
Transparency is, of course, a good thing, and by giving customers access to better information, they will be able to make more informed choices. Chevrolet hopes Ecologic will also help differentiate the brand from the competition, and as Mr Devine explained, “Over the course of time, we can make this more robust and provide even more information to consumers. It’s a long term proposition.”
Image courtesy of Chevrolet