So let’s imagine branding for cars is outlawed. Flashy logos or bright colours are banned. Go-faster stripes (which might encourage young would-be drivers) are, of course, out of the question. “Extra Strength” diesel models are sold only in unattractive mould green packaging. Bumper stickers with official warnings (“Air pollution kills more Americans than breast and prostate cancers combined”) are obligatory.
The cigarette and car industries: both pushing a product that is unhealthy, both paying lip service to cleaning up their act and both falsifying test results. VW was caught out cheating emissions tests but it would be naive to think that they were the only ones at it.
According to Californian state authorities, diesel emissions account for the majority of cancer risk created by all outdoor air pollution sources in the state. Paris has recorded Beijing-level pollution as a result of nitrogen dioxide pumped out of cars. Londoners looking for a better environment move out to the leafy suburbs to find their kids have a greater chance of pulmonary disease because they’re nearer to the choked up M25 orbital motorway. If they decide to leave the smog for a trip to the pristine alps they discover that there are days when children in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, living below Europe’s highest mountain, spend some days indoors to escape the noxious gases of holiday traffic and trucks.
One wonders how bad things have to get before Governments, or citizens, decide that enough is enough. So far, the role of cars in affecting climate change has had a fairly limited effect in persuading consumers to switch to kick the combustion habit. But maybe the VW scandal, combined with the ever-growing choice of electric vehicles (at ever lower prices), could bring about the tipping point that Elon Musk and his fellow travellers have been impatiently waiting for. Or maybe I should watch what I’m smoking.