Despite Vocal Complaints, European Car Makers Meeting New Rules

Claims by the auto industry that mandatory efficiency targets would make cars unaffordable have been scotched by figures showing 2010's new cars were, on average, more efficient and emitted less CO2 than a year before, green groups will argue today.

A new report by campaign group Transport & Environment says the average car sold in Europe last year was 4 percent more fuel efficient, emitted 4 percent less CO2, and was still 2.5 percent cheaper in real terms than in 2009.

Overall, Europe's fleet averaged emissions of 140g CO2/km and is rapidly closing in on the E.U. target of cutting average emissions from new cars to 130g CO2/km by 2015.

Car makers on average are just 7 percent off the individual targets they are required to meet by 2015, while Fiat and Toyota are already below the 130g CO2/km, and within 5 percent and 1 percent, respectively, of their E.U. targets.

The Transport & Environment group has consistently accused manufacturers of overestimating the impact of the emissions standards on costs and the group today pointed out that eight of Europe's 15 largest manufacturers have reached, or moved beyond, the 140g CO2/km mark without noticeable price increases.

Industry cost estimates in 2001 predicted that reaching 140g CO2/km would add an average of €2,400 (US$3,267) on to the price of new cars, while the same analysis in 2006 estimated a premium of €1,200 (US$1,633), the report says.

But Transport & Environment's research suggested "like-for-like" retail prices have fallen by an average of 2.4 percent across Europe since legally binding targets for tailpipe emissions were first announced in 2007.

"The car industry has consistently resisted fuel-efficiency regulations by complaining that cars would become unaffordable. But car emissions have now dropped to 140g CO2/km and that simply hasn't happened; prices have actually fallen in real terms," Jos Dings, director of Transport & Environment, said in a statement.

"Clearly, the E.U. needs to learn lessons from this. When it comes to future targets to improve fuel efficiency, industry cost estimates should be taken with an SUV-sized pinch of salt."

According to the new report, Volvo delivered the largest cuts in emissions last year, trimming 9 percent off its average fleet emissions, although it still has the second-worst average CO2 emissions behind Daimler.

Honda and Mazda bucked the overall downward trend as emissions rose 0.6 percent and 0.3 percent respectively.

Volkswagen (VW), which has been targeted by a Greenpeace campaign over its continued opposition to setting tougher targets for 2020, reached 143g CO2/km, but is still some 13 percent off its 2015 target.

"For years [VW lobbyists] claimed the 2015 fuel-efficiency target would threaten the industry and be impossible to meet, but now we see they overestimated the costs and, in fact, have been able to make their cars cleaner and cheaper at the same time," said Greenpeace campaigner Emma Gibson.

"The report shows how much better VW can do when it puts its engineering genius to work. Its lobbyists should get out of the way, support strong 2020 targets and let the engineers do what they can to make VW cars as clean as they could be."

Germany, VW's homeland, sold 2.8 million vehicles last year, with average emissions falling 1.8 percent -- the second-worst progress in Europe behind Slovakia.

Denmark led the way with an 8.9 percent year-on-year reduction in the average emissions of new cars.

This article originally appeared on BusinessGreen.

Photo CC-licensed by Dr. Keats.