Dramatically reducing fleet average emissions is now the priority for car makers, if they are to avoid heavy fines
Julian Rendell
20 January 2020

This year will mark a revolution in new-car selling: for the first time, car makers will place the CO2 output of every model in their ranges at the top of their priority list, outweighing design, performance and other traditional sales points.

The EU’s 95g/km fleet average CO2 regulation – under discussion in Brussels for a decade – means from 2020 every car maker faces significant fines if they miss their target.

With such a long preparation time, car makers have at least had a chance to develop low-CO2 technologies, but most have only fed the improvements through in the past couple of years – and fresh into 2020 we have already seen car makers reshuffling the mix of engines in their model ranges and rushing to introduce low-CO2 models.

Ford, for example, has pruned 2.0 and 1.5-litre petrol engines from the S-Max and Mondeo and will be dropping the thirsty Edge SUV from its range. Meanwhile, Volkswagen and Skoda have canned the most polluting 2.0 TSI petrol motor from its large SUVs.

In fact, data supplied to Autocar by Jato Dynamics indicates that around 184 models have been trimmed from the 7345 variants listed on UK price lists in November 2018 – a small percentage, but an unusual reverse in an industry more used to expanding model ranges.

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Up GTI 2018 review on the road

VW has added a third member to the GTI family - but is it worthy of the badge?

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

Anecdotally, there is also evidence that waiting lists on some models are unusually long as car makers throttle off supply, especially of lightweight cars like hot hatchbacks with high-emitting powerful engines, because they score very badly under the regulations.

Last month, the Financial Times reported that Mercedes dealers are expecting to have supply of the most polluting AMG models restricted by up to 7.5% in 2020.

There are also suggestions that car makers have been filling their distribution centres with low-CO2 and zero-emission models ready for this month, but did not make them available to customers in 2019.

“We have our suspicions that some battery-electric cars were being built in 2019 and stockpiled ready for sale this year,” analyst Colin Couchman of IHS Markit told Autocar. “There’s a discrepancy between build rates and shipping numbers.”

Why would car makers do this? For 2020, to speed up the introduction of battery-electric models, they qualify for ‘super-credits’ under the EU regulation (effectively they count twice towards a car maker’s average), which makes it easier to achieve their target.

There are also UK-specific incentives. For example, battery-electric cars will be zero-rated for BIK (Benefit in Kind) tax for two years from April 2020. So a company car driver – for example, in a Merc C220d AMG Line saloon who switches to a BEV in April – will save £2381 per year in tax alone. “These changes to UK company car taxation are going to give BEV and plug-in sales a significant lift in the UK,” says Matthias Schmidt, a Berlin-based consultant who specialises in low-carbon technologies.

In the spring Ford, for example, will launch 1.0-litre 48V mild-hybrid Fiesta and Focus models in time for the new company car tax rules, cutting CO2 to 106g/km in the Focus. Expect plenty of similar announcements from other car makers throughout 2020.

There has been a significant switch in the determination of manufacturers to hit their EU target – the prospect of heavy fines has clearly focused minds. And this is despite three trends that have forced up fleet averages in the run-in to January: increasing sales of SUVs, reduced diesel demand and the shift to tougher WLTP regulation.

BMW and Ford, which along with JLR and VW were in the bottom five of a PA Consulting CO2 study last year, are now explicitly saying they will hit their target. Mercedes, also in the bottom five, says it is its “goal” to do so. 

Greg Archer of Transport and Environment (T&E), whose lobbying partly shaped the EU regulation, is not so sure the industry will be able to turn around its performance so easily.

“It will require a high level of electrification and while the 2020 target might be achievable, in 2021 there is a risk of three car makers incurring penalties,”

T&E published a report in September that outlined four strategies car makers could take and, depending on how they are introduced on individual models, these will influence the chances of hitting the target.

Whatever happens, the job of car company bosses to get the right mix of low-CO2 models is their new challenge. This year, car buyers can expect model ranges to evolve with the emphasis on hybrids, plug-ins and electrification and not on lightweight cars with powerful engines.

How the EU regulations work

The headline figure is 95g/km. But during the political horse-trading in Brussels as the figures were agreed, the German and UK industry succeeded in tweaking the regulation so that weight was taken into account – ensuring it could work for heavier luxury cars as well as lighter ones.

As a result, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, with a range dominated by small cars, has a target of 92g/km in 2020, while BMW has 102g/km.

But Autocar understands the figure will change for 2021. That’s also when an exemption for the top five percent highest emitters will expire.

Each company average is built up from CO2 target figures calculated for individual models and based on a reference mass of 1379.88kg (about the weight of a BMW 1 Series).

The formula is: CO2 Target = 95 + [0.033 x (Model Mass – 1379.88kg)]

Taking a model such as the BMW 116d SE, which weighs 1440kg, its CO2 target is: 95 + [0.033 (1440 – 1379.88)] = 95 + [1.98] = 97.0g/km. The 116d is rated at 111g/km, so is subject to a fine of €95 (£81) per g/km over the target, per car sold.

The lightweight 1100kg but 120g/km VW Up GTi is a particular loser, facing a possible fine of around €3252 (£2771) per car.

READ MORE

Car ownership “not compatible” with emissions targets

Hydrogen is key for meeting emissions targets, says Hyundai

Opinion: The UK car industry's 2021 Brexit timebomb

Join the debate

Comments
13

289

20 January 2020

Sooooo, thats the end of the power 'arms race' then. It really was the last hurrah.

Now the decent models in manufacturers ranges will be trimmed out to such an extent that you might as well capitulate and drive an anodine (white good) EV. With all the charm and excitement of an Electrolux fridge.

All in an attempt to reach some crazy arbitary average emissions target set by an un-elected know-all (know-nothing) EU beaurocrat.

Worse none of this shit will make a damn of difference as the rest of the planet is still in the 'Industrial Revolution mode' - filling the planet with filth and depleting resources in the name of profit.

What a great future to look forward to.

Short term, it will push the value of good used cars with some balls attached. Some of us arent quite ready to lay down and die.

20 January 2020
Exactly! As long as there are cargo ships from China just dumping exhaust into the atmosphere, making a Ford Fiesta drive switch to an EV is just silly. Waste of money. When politicians stop taking there private jets everywhere and actually have to drive themselves to meetings, then maybe I cam take them a little more serious in relating to the rest of the world

20 January 2020
BlahBlah43 wrote:

Exactly! As long as there are cargo ships from China just dumping exhaust into the atmosphere, making a Ford Fiesta drive switch to an EV is just silly. Waste of money. When politicians stop taking there private jets everywhere and actually have to drive themselves to meetings, then maybe I cam take them a little more serious in relating to the rest of the world
The future is so damn depressing. No fun lightweight small cars. No engines revving. No soul. Sad

A good sounding manual sports car is literally the only benefit petrol has over EV's. However, that's a piss-poor excuse to use against EV's becoming mainstream, given the astronomical benefits from switching from fossil fuels. There's so much wrong with your comment, I don't know where to begin.

289

20 January 2020
"a good sounding manual sports car is literally the only benefit petrol has over EV's"
..... There's so much wrong with your comment @ sonic, I don't know where to begin!!

20 January 2020
289 wrote:

"a good sounding manual sports car is literally the only benefit petrol has over EV's"
..... There's so much wrong with your comment @ sonic, I don't know where to begin!!

Just quickly list 3 benefits where you thing ICE has over EV's. I'm curious, but I don't want another pointless online debate.

20 January 2020
Sonic wrote:
289 wrote:

"a good sounding manual sports car is literally the only benefit petrol has over EV's"
..... There's so much wrong with your comment @ sonic, I don't know where to begin!!

Just quickly list 3 benefits where you thing ICE has over EV's. I'm curious, but I don't want another pointless online debate.

By the way, think long-term. We know charging points, renewables, etc are becoming cheaper and more accessible each month... But how will the world benefit from further mass ICE adoption? And what makes the cars themselves better? I can think of charging as a problem today, but that won't be a long-term issue.

20 January 2020
The future is so damn depressing. No fun lightweight small cars. No engines revving. No soul. Sad

20 January 2020
What I think is sad is how this emissions ruling is killing off light weight city cars like the up, and whilst worthwhile regarding pollution, I still believe cars are a drop in the ocean and that these legislators need to look elsewhere as well. The issue as others have said is that somehow other developing countries need to reduce their outputs as well as major players like the US and China.

20 January 2020
Pretty sure the up GTi has lower emissions, 110g/km ish

20 January 2020

I thought the aim was to penalise heavy vehicles that go over the target.  Doesn't the formula above work differently if it's lighter the 1379Kg?  I could be wrong....

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week