Greenpeace and the Belgian Automobile Federation, Febiac, are locked in a war of words over the use of diesel in vehicles. The NGO recently denounced in the Flemish press what it described as a lack of transparency in testing systems, dubious ties between carmakers and laboratories and faulty monitoring of the entire process. Febiac, which is not amused by this criticism, hit back, accusing Greenpeace of “a total lack of technical knowledge.”
A Greenpeace collaborator, Joeri Thijs, noted in Humo magazine that carmakers have been “shopping around” when they need to obtain approvals. “A German manufacturer, for example, can choose to have one part approved in Country A, another part or system in Country B and the entire model in Country C. This naturally leads to competition between the different certifying agencies and the laboratories,” Thijs said. “This competition is not healthy. Laboratories, which should do testing independently and objectively, are more inclined to set the bar lower to attract carmakers.”
A Febiac spokesperson noted, however, that independent tests were unavoidable. “The solidity of belts cannot be tested by the same company that checks the way headlights function,” the spokesman said. “The technicity is so high that no single company can master all aspects of all parts.”
Greenpeace also charged that another environmental organization, Transport & Environment, found out that a diesel-powered Honda car has been authorized in Flanders without conforming to the latest emission standards. “It gives off much more than authorized, but that model has been approved without any problem over here,” Greenpeace said.
Febiac responded that it knew nothing about that precise case but that there was no agency in Belgium able to check engines with regard to Euro-6 standards.
Greenpeace said it was advising consumers to turn away from diesel “because everything indicates that this type of car will not find any buyers five years from now on the secondhand market”, an opinion which, Febiac feels, needs to be qualified.
“We, too, want more electric and hybrid vehicles, but diesel will not vanish in five to 10 years,” the Febiac spokesperson countered. “Greenpeace is scoring a point by saying that the residual value is under pressure, but it’s not true that this type of vehicle will not be saleable.”