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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 01:17 GMT 02:17 UK
Most car brands 'failing on CO2'
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

Traffic jam  Image: Getty Images
The report shows the progress of individual car brands
Three-quarters of Europe's car brands are failing to improve fuel efficiency fast enough to meet a key European emissions target, a study has claimed.

The top performer on fuel efficiency was Fiat; while Nissan came bottom of the table.

The report is the first to show the progress of individual European car brands on meeting the commitment to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Improving fuel efficiency is vital in efforts to tackle climate change.

The more fuel a car uses, the more of the greenhouse gas CO2 is released into the atmosphere.

In 1998, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (Acea) pledged to the European Union on behalf of its members to reduce the average CO2 emissions for new cars to 140 grams per kilometre by 2008. This represents a reduction of 25% over 1995 levels.

Japanese and Korean manufacturers, which command a smaller part of the European car market, made similar commitments. But they have an extra year to do so.

Cutting down

According to the report commissioned by Transport and Environment (T&E), Nissan, Suzuki, Mazda, Audi, Volvo, BMW and Volkswagen cut their emissions at less than half the rate needed to meet their commitment.

Fiat, Citroen, Renault, Ford and Peugeot are set to meet or exceed their target by 2008.

Ethanol fuel pump  Image: AFP
Alternative fuels may be part of an approach to lowering CO2 emissions
"We see that it is feasible to reduce emissions according to targets, but there are still a large number of car makers who fail to do so," said Aat Peterse, clean cars programme manager at T&E.

"It's not a question of cost, it's not a question of technology. It is a question of policy."

Overall, the car industry is not on track to meet its commitment to the European Union, the report states.

In the remaining three or four years, car makers would have to reduce the CO2 emission and fuel consumption of their products at three to four times the rate of reduction they have achieved in previous years.

A spokesman for the UK's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said: "I don't think, realistically, there's anybody in the industry who doubts there is a real job to get down to the 140g of CO2 per kilometre level by 2008."

Increasingly, green factors are rising up the buying agenda in much the way safety did 10-15 years ago
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
"Overall, we've shown we're committed to cleaning up our performance on new cars. We've gone a long way, we're hitting trend targets and we're looking to meet the 2008 commitment," he told BBC News.

A spokeswoman for Acea admitted the commitment represented "a very ambitious target". She added: "The industry invests huge amounts of money in research and development to achieve these goals."

Motor manufacturers say safety requirements imposed on the industry have offset efforts to cut emissions. Side impact bars and airbags add to a car's weight, requiring greater engine power to move the vehicle.

Meeting targets

Nissan said its showing in the report reflected differences in the mix of vehicles sold by the company in 1997 compared with 2005.

"Our range of 4x4s and crossover vehicles has broadened and sales have consequently increased. We have also introduced a high performance sports car," a spokesman told BBC News.

"Together these vehicles made up nearly 30% of our sales in 2005 versus nearly 5% in 1997. Their CO2 figures are naturally higher than the smaller cars we sold more of in 1997 and so will raise our average."

A spokesman for Suzuki added that he had not seen the report, but said the company produced "some very fuel efficient cars".

"Every manufacturer recognises that lower carbon dioxide is not just a moral issue, it's a question of competitive advantage," said a spokesman for the SMMT, "Increasingly, green factors are rising up the buying agenda in much the way safety did 10-15 years ago."

Acea said it supported an "integrated approach" to reducing emissions. Alternative fuels, new approaches to taxation and driver responsibility must be involved in cutting CO2.

The EU is currently preparing a revised EU strategy on CO2 emissions in cars. Amongst other options, it could consider the issue of industry regulation, something car manufacturers oppose.
Ranking Brand 1997 average C02 emissions g/km 2005 average C02 emissions g/km Reduction target % of target achieved
1 Fiat 169 139 -21 140%
2 Citroen 172 144 -24 115%
3 Renault 173 149 -25 100%
4 Ford 180 151 -30 95%
5 Peugeot 177 151 -28 94%
6 Vauxhall 180 156 -30 81%
7 Toyota 189 163 -35 76%
8 Kia 202 170 -44 72%
9 Skoda 165 152 -19 71%
10 Seat 158 150 -13 63%
11 Honda 184 166 -31 60%
12 Mercedes 223 185 -64 59%
13 Hyundai 189 170 -34 57%
14 VW 170 159 -22 48%
15 BMW 216 192 -58 40%
16 Volvo 219 195 -61 39%
17 Audi 190 177 -38 35%
18 Mazda 186 177 -32 27%
19 Suzuki 169 165 -20 22%
20 Nissan 177 172 -26 20%
Source: R.L. Polk Marketing Systems GmbH

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