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Car-makers star in global green list

Top spot: The Prius sub-brand helped Toyota stay on top of the Best Global Green Brands ranking for a third straight year.

Toyota still the greenest car brand but Ford and Honda close the gap

13 Jun 2013

NINE car-makers have made the cut in a list honouring the 50 best global green brands, including five spots in the top ten.

The annual sustainability report, conducted by brand consultant Interbrand, ranks the environmental performance of globally recognised companies drawn from its annual 100 Best Global Brands report.

The report assesses both market perception and actual environmental performance (the latter captured by Deloitte), and defines a sustainable brand as one that embraces the ‘three pillars’ of environment, social equity and economic demands.

It excludes any brands that are considered distinct from their corporate parent because, it says, environmental activities are normally reported at a corporate level, while consumers are generally aware of the market-facing brand.

Toyota was the star of the show this year, taking out top spot thanks to its plethora of hybrid models – 2.9 million Prius models alone were sold last year – plus its plan to release a hydrogen production car by 2015, and its developments in fuel-cell, lithium-air battery and LED lighting technology.

Manufacturing and operations are also taken into account, and Toyota scored highly for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption and using reusable metal containers for shipping.

However, Interbrand says the Japanese car-maker has lost some ground to other high-placing automotive brands including Ford (2), Honda (3) and Nissan (5).

Ford’s range of frugal EcoBoost turbo engines were responsible for the US car-maker’s rise from 15th place in last year’s report to second place in 2013.

Interbrand highlighted Ford America’s promotion of the EcoBoost engine in its F150 utility and the Ford Europe’s decision to increase the number of models with EcoBoost technology from five to ten by 2015 as reasons for its high placing.

Ford’s environmental performance was further boosted by its strategy to reduce the amount of energy required to manufacture each vehicle by almost 25 per cent over the last six years.

Honda maintained its number three ranking from last year thanks to the launch of an all-electric version of its Fit (called the Jazz here) light car in some international markets, the roll-out of its “Earth Dreams” engines and the use of fuel-cell technology.

Investment in solar energy also kept it high on the list, as it prepares to install 2.6 megawatts of solar capacity at its Yorii plant in Japan as well as installing solar capacity across its Japanese dealer network.

The brand that experienced the biggest jump in rankings this year is Nissan, leaping from 21st to fifth place, predominantly on the back of one key model – the Leaf EV.

Despite the impact on sales of so-called “range anxiety” and issues with the roll out of appropriate infrastructure for recharging beyond California, Nissan is pushing ahead with plans to produce the Leaf in the US and Europe.

Factors including its repositioning of the Leaf to make it more affordable, its current US sales of 25,000 units and its willingness to continue investing in EV technology ensured a high position.

Nissan also plans to reduce vehicle weight by 15 per cent from 2017 onwards using a new steel technology, and is working in collaboration with Daimler and Ford to produce a range of affordable fuel-cell vehicles around the same time.

Meanwhile, German car-makers Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all lost ground on last year’s results, with highest-ranked European brand VW sliding from fourth to seventh place.

Still, vehicles such as the Eco Up that produces 2.9kg of compressed natural gas per 100km kept it in the top ten, as did its plans to significantly reduce energy consumption at plants in Brazil and India.

BMW dropped three places from tenth last year to 13th place in 2013, while arch-rival Mercedes-Benz slid one place from 16th to 17th in the green rankings.

South Korean car-maker Hyundai also lost ground, falling from 17th to 34th position following an investigation by the US Environmental Protection Agency that found its American arm had misled consumers by publishing false fuel efficiency figures.

The class action lawsuit that followed the investigation heavily impacted Hyundai’s brand perception and therefore its rankings in this year’s list.

Despite its involvement in the same investigation, Hyundai’s sister company Kia made its debut in this year’s Best Green Brand rankings at number 37.

Initiatives such as the Active Eco System that reduces fuel consumption through the optimisation of the engine and transmission, as well as the US launch of its EcoDynamics line-up of greener vehicles pushed Kia into the rankings for the first time.

Kia Motors Corporation executive vice president and COO Tae-Hyun Oh said Kia’s inclusion as a global green brand was due to investment in environmental performance.

“We strive to create safe, economical and environmentally-friendly vehicles in all our manufacturing facilities, and our business practices have been developed to match this focus on sustainability.”

Interbrand says it comes as no surprise that 50 per cent of the top ten brands were car-makers. The heavily regulated industry, it said, “showcased its innovations and firm commitment to manufacturing vehicles in an increasingly sustainable way”.

But while automotive brands performed well, technology companies had more spots on this year’s overall rankings, with 12 brands including Panasonic, Dell, Sony, Nokia and Apple making the grade.

Fashion and cosmetic brands also featured, as did a number of companies from the banking and finance sector.

2013 Best Green Brands - Automotive
1 Toyota
2 Ford

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