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Market Insight: Brands battle for CO2 honours

Economy drive: With improved fuel efficiency of up to 16 per cent, Volkswagen’s seventh-generation Golf launched last year contributed a significant reduction in corporate average CO2 emissions for the brand in Australia.

Mitsubishi, VW improve most amid mixed results in CO2 averages for local car sector

Market Insight logo25 May 2014

By TERRY MARTIN

MITSUBISHI and Volkswagen both achieved a 7.7 per cent reduction in average carbon dioxide emissions across their respective model range last year, sharing top honours among the market-leading brands in Australia.

The latest corporate average emissions figures published by the National Transport Commission details the extent to which the top 15 car manufacturers in Australia – representing around 92 per cent of all new-vehicle sales – are improving, or in one case case, falling behind in terms of their vehicles’ CO2 standing.

Significant reductions of more than five per cent were also made by Subaru (down 6.9 per cent), Jeep and Mercedes-Benz (both down 5.9 per cent) and Nissan (-5.2 per cent), while Toyota, BMW and Mazda recorded reductions of 3.4, 3.2 and 2.9 per cent respectively for the year.

Although small-car specialist Suzuki maintained its position as a market leader in terms of the lowest CO2 emissions average across its entire range – 158 grams per kilometre, equal best with BMW – the Japanese car-maker was the only brand among Australia’s top 15 to actually increase its average CO2 emissions last year, up 0.5 per cent.

Notably, Ford, Hyundai and Holden failed to improve their standing by more than one per cent. The Blue Oval’s average CO2 emissions were down only 0.4 per cent across its locally built and imported range, while Hyundai improved just 0.6 per cent and Holden 0.9 per cent (despite the launch of its most economical Commodore ever, the VF).

Kia and Honda were also at the back end of the table, with reductions of 2.3 and 2.5 per cent respectively.

Model lifecycles and launch schedules can obviously impact on the annual results, but the figures broadly reflect ongoing powertrain improvements, increasingly prevalent ancillary measures such as idle-stop and brake energy regeneration systems, engine downsizing, more hi-tech diesel options and the introduction of smaller vehicles to a brand’s portfolio.

Mitsubishi’s improved CO2 performance owed much to the reborn Mirage and key model year upgrades across several lines, while Volkswagen launched its new-generation Golf with economy improvements of up to 16 per cent. Other VW models gained revised diesel engines, DSG transmissions and BlueMotion fuel-saving technology.

While there were 48 brands available to Australian consumers last year, the NTC uses the top 15 to determine national average emissions, which for the entire industry was down 3.4 per cent to 192g/km.

Naturally, full-line importers tend to feel the weight of selling a broad range of vehicles – including large passenger cars, SUVs and light commercial vehicles – compared with brands with mostly small cars, such as Suzuki, or those with a smaller range like Subaru.

But BMW’s move to the top of the market alongside Suzuki in overall terms also reflects how increasingly stringent regulations – and, to a certain extent, higher customer expectations – in Europe are flowing through to Australia in the form of cleaner engines (EU6 classification for all petrol-powered BMWs, for example), smarter electronics (new functions added to the ‘Eco Pro’ mode), upgraded hybrid powertrains and a new emphasis on two-wheel-drive layouts for SUVs.

This will intensify, too, as BMW rolls out its electrified i-car range, starting with the i3 in November, and a front-wheel-drive family that kicks off with the fast-approaching three-cylinder 2 Series Active Tourer.

The latest figures show Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz are closing in on BMW in terms of overall CO2 emissions on the Australian market, placing third and fourth respectively last year with 162 and 165g/km, while big-name Japanese and South Korean import brands – namely Hyundai (175g/km), Honda (176), Subaru (181), Mazda and Kia (184) and Mitsubishi (191) – are planted in middle of the field.

Of the five brands above 200g/km, off-road-oriented Jeep remains the highest at 226g/km despite the improvements achieved last year, and the three local manufacturers – Holden (212g/km), Ford (205g/km) and Toyota (203g/km) – all failed to distinguish themselves.

Nissan, too, remained well off the pace with average CO2 emissions of 209g/km, despite last year’s 5.2 per cent improvement.

Toyota’s locally built range is the greenest among the Australian-built cars with 179g/km across the board (Camry Hybrid is the lowest emitter at 121g/km), compared to 213g/km for Holden and 237g/km for Ford, although Holden’s rate of improvement last year – thanks to the new VF series – was 1.7 per cent compared with 1.2 per cent for Toyota and 0.5 per cent for Ford.

“Holden has achieved a 16 per cent CO2 reduction since 2008 and remains committed to reducing CO2 emissions and environmental impact,” GM Holden senior manager of corporate communications, Sean Poppitt, told GoAuto.

“With vehicles like the game-changing electric Volt and the extensive use of lightweight materials like aluminium in the VF Commodore range, Holden remains extremely competitive on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions across the product range.

“The more modest improvement in 2013 from 2012 is primarily due to our increased model activity, particularly in the booming SUV segments and an increase in SUV sales against passenger vehicles.”

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