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Choice and Mercedes clash over economy figures

Bad Choice: The consumer magazine’s recent review of Mercedes’ GLA crossover is wrong, claims the German car-maker, while Choice is calling on Benz to prove that test results are not “manipulated”.

Mercedes-Benz takes consumer mag to task over 'misinformed' fuel economy story

2 Oct 2015

AS GOVERNMENT and media houses scramble to respond in the wake of the Volkswagen Group emissions scandal, a popular consumer advisory magazine has drawn the ire of Mercedes-Benz Australia.

Choice magazine published a review of the Mercedes-Benz GLA crossover in June this year, recording a fuel economy figure 30 per cent worse than the company claims.

“Our tester also found it to be a very nice car to drive,” said the review. “The all-wheel-drive keeps the car firm on the road however, the gearbox could do with some improvements. Unfortunately, we found it to be almost 30 per cent thirstier than its claimed fuel consumption.” The article noted that the GLA250 petrol as tested record a fuel economy figure of 10 litres per 100 kilometres, against Mercedes-Benz’s claim of 7.0L/100km.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy was scathing of the 56-year-old organisation’s report, accusing the company of waging an ill-informed campaign to influence public opinion.

“It is surprising and extremely disappointing that a consumer organisation such as Choice has begun an ill-informed campaign to influence public opinion, without undertaking appropriate research and information gathering,” Mr McCarthy told GoAuto.

“Had they actually factually covered this issue the story would have been a lot different.” Mr McCarthy pointed out that car-makers were obliged to post fuel economy figures in line with current federal legislation.

“If Choice had looked at the information available, they would have understood that the Australian government sets the standard for measuring and reporting of fuel consumption of new light vehicles (passenger cars, SUVs and LCVs) by Australian Design Rule 81/02 – Fuel Consumption Labelling of Light Vehicles (ADR 81/02),” he said.

Mr McCarthy said that the company was not averse to the idea of changing the methodology by which fuel economy figures are achieved.

“Mercedes-Benz strongly supports the introduction of the so-called worldwide harmonised light-vehicles test procedure, so that test results from the lab and real road driving can be the basis for a customer to make comparisons,” he said.

Choice’s director of campaigns and communications Matt Levey said the organisation welcomed the support from Mercedes for the harmonised light-vehicles test procedure.

“If Australians can't trust the information on fuel-efficiency labels as an accurate reflection of how their vehicle will perform, that is a ridiculous situation and needs to be fixed,” said Mr Levey.

Mr Levey said the organisation is well aware of how vehicle tests are conducted and how standards are set, and said it was calling on the Australian government to improve test procedures, as well as independence and rigour in the test process.

“The car-maker’s response is certainly colourful but also predictable when you look at how they’ve responded to similar investigations in Europe, as recently as last year,” said Mr Levey.

“We understand that cars perform differently in current laboratory tests than they do on the road. We also understand that consumers tend to drive cars on the road rather than in laboratories, and we note evidence that the gap between laboratory claims and real-world performance has been growing over recent years.

“If Mercedes-Benz can state publicly that consumers can have 100 per cent confidence in all of their claims and testing, that they have not manipulated any tests for air pollution or fuel efficiency, that would be welcomed by Choice and by consumers,” said Mr Levey.

"We have 100 per cent confidence in our claims and the test results and we categorically state that we (MB) have not manipulated any tests for air pollution or fuel efficiency," retorted Mr McCarthy.

Mr Levey said that Choice’s fuel testing comprises of an on-road test over a set route.

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