Report: Honda Greenest Automaker, GM Tumbles to Worst Overall

Report: Honda Greenest Automaker, GM Tumbles to Worst Overall

Honda increased its lead over its competitors in the biennial race for the title of greenest automaker, the Union of Concerned Scientists announced at a recent Washington press conference as it presented leaders of Honda with the "2004 Greenest Automaker" award. In stark contrast, UCS dubbed General Motors "Public Polluter #1" when it comes to emissions generated by automakers. GM, which had the least polluting vehicles of the Big Three automakers just six model years ago, fell behind industry laggard DaimlerChrysler into last place in UCS's latest environmental ranking of car companies.

"Honda is in a class of its own when it comes to producing clean cars and trucks," said David Friedman, research director of UCS's Clean Vehicles Program and lead author of the report. "General Motors, on the other hand, is stuck in reverse. GM has spent countless dollars in advertising trying to create a green image, but as the only automaker to move backwards on both smog and carbon dioxide, its rhetoric doesn't match reality."

"Automaker Rankings 2004: The Environmental Performance of Car Companies" is the third installment of the only comprehensive ranking of the automakers' environmental performance. The report analyzes the six largest automakers in the U.S. market, which together account for nine out of every 10 vehicles sold in this country. UCS evaluated data on smog-forming pollution and heat-trapping emissions from each company's fleet using model year 2003 sales information and certification standards. The report rates the pollution performance of the average vehicle produced by each company; total sales volume does not influence the results.

Honda increased its overall lead by building vehicles that produce less than half the smog-forming pollutants of the industry average and 18 percent less heat-trapping emissions. Nissan took over second place by reducing global warming emissions per vehicle more than any other automaker-by about six percent since model year 2001. Toyota's slip into third place is a reflection of Nissan's pollution progress as well a lackadaisical effort from Toyota on smog. Ford maintained a fourth place standing with a Jekyll and Hyde approach to the environment that led to cars that matched Toyota's smog-forming pollution performance for the first time in UCS's analysis and the worst heat-trapping gas performance of all the automakers.

"One of the key findings of this report is that trucks don't have to be an environmental liability," said Don MacKenzie, UCS vehicles engineer and co-author of the new report. "Ford and Honda put technology to work and cut their overall smog-forming pollution despite increased truck sales."

DaimlerChrysler moved into fifth place (one up from last place in the first two rankings) due to GM's poor performance as well as a modest fuel economy improvement from the trucks that make up two-thirds of DaimlerChrysler's sales. GM bottomed out in the rankings, despite many technology announcements and a commitment to lead the Big Three on truck fuel economy. In fact, GM fell from the best of the Big Three to the worst over the past six model years, largely because GM's trucks are more polluting than Ford's and DaimlerChrysler's.

"Spurred by regulations, Honda, Nissan and Ford cut smog-forming pollution ahead of schedule, and the other automakers should follow their lead," said Friedman. "A similar approach is needed to address global warming. Automakers must tap into the variety of existing technologies that can cut heat-trapping emissions while saving consumers money at the gas pump."

The report encourages consumers to purchase the cleanest, most fuel-efficient car or truck that meets their needs. When all else is equal between two vehicles, the rankings allow consumers to use their purchasing power to reward the better overall automaker.