Greenest car makers analysis: Green rating fleet's top 20
17 April 2015
BusinessCar's annual analysis of the top 20 fleet manufacturers by their eco credentials enters its eighth year, as we investigate whether Renault can hold onto the crown it took from Toyota in 2014. Paul Barker reports
As the focus on emissions continues and the Government ramps up vehicle taxation across the board, you need to make sure that your fleet is as efficient as possible. It's not just about saving the planet - how green your vehicles are has a severe economic impact aside from and above any social, moral or corporate responsibility considerations.
That's why BusinessCar has undertaken some in-depth analysis of the various elements that show how eco-friendly each of the UK's top 20 manufacturers, by 2014 fleet registration figures, are, as well as how quickly they are moving in the right direction.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has again delved into the huge catalogue of data it has available to help us out with four of the 10 categories on which we assess the manufacturers. It has provided the average fleet registration emissions figure for each brand, from which we can also calculate the percentage change on last year to see how quickly manufacturers are cutting their CO2 emissions, or not as is the case with two brands this year.
The SMMT has also provided us with the same figure for fleet registration of each company's biggest-selling fleet model, and again we've awarded marks based on how much that has dropped, and also how it compares with the sector's average fleet emissions figure.
We've also taken an international angle, digging out each marque's individual EU target, which is calculated using vehicle mass set against CO2 to avoid unduly penalising those that sell larger and heavier vehicles. Manufacturers need to meet these targets to sidestep fines, and while 18 of the 20 are below their figure, we've awarded marks based on how far under they have fallen.
Then, with the help of BusinessCar's online CO2 calculator, provided by ComCar, we've looked at the two categories at the bottom end of the company car benefit-in-kind scale, and what sort of product offering each brand has below 76g/km and 95g/km to help those looking to minimise BIK bills and operate the most efficient fleet.
From there, the CO2 calculator has also provided the data on each manufacturer's lower medium
model - the heartland of the fleet sector - and how they compare with each other.
Finally, we've looked at the all-round current and future green efforts of each brand, and graded according to how much of a complete range of offerings the company has for those looking for the greenest solutions, both with the current range and with what will be arriving over the next couple of years.
Each category is marked out of five to give an overall score out of 50, which we have doubled to give a nice, round percentage result.
Toyota has come out on top in five of the previous seven years we have carried out this analysis, punctuated only by victories for Peugeot in 2012 and Renault last year. But, as you'll see below, we have a new name at the top this year. Read on to see why, and find out where the other 19 brands have found themselves in 2015.
1. Volvo - 86%
Volvo's continued improvement and introduction of lower-emission engines has seen it take a well-deserved victory and commendation as BusinessCar's greenest brand.
It's a far cry from the first survey seven years ago when the company placed at 15 out of 20, and the improvement is a reflection of Volvo's investment in low-emission diesel and plug-in hybrid technology under Chinese ownership.
Adding two new plug-ins per year until 2020, along with replacements for the older models such as the V70 and S80, should help keep the momentum of improvement intact.
2. Toyota - 84%
A winner in five of the seven previous analyses, the Japanese hybrid expert has gone mighty close to another victory this year, missing out by the smallest of margins thanks to remarkable consistency across all our categories of assessment.
A bit more evidence of future developments to continue the high standards of low emissions could have been enough to drag it up to, and maybe even past, Volvo at the top of the table.
3. Peugeot - 82%
Peugeot drops one place on last year to round out the 2015 podium, having scored maximum points in six of the 10 categories.
Only a minimal reduction in CO2 for its biggest fleet seller, the 208, and a solitary model available below 76g/km proved costly, but the revised 208 should provide another step-change in the next couple of months.
Peugeot was also only in the middle of the pack in terms of how quickly its average fleet emissions fell last year.
4. Renault - 80%. Lowest average fleet emissions
Just six percentage points covered the top four brands, and it's last year's number one Renault that is at the tail end of that procession. A lack of evidence of future emissions-reducing introductions was the most costly issue, although when details of the new Megane begin to emerge then that may make a difference.
That would also help the French brand's score in the lower medium sector, where the Megane's 90g/km is now bettered by much of the industry.
5. Citroen - 77%
A previous high-flyer, Citroen still has plenty of strengths but suffers from having just one car below 76g/km and the fact that the C4 Picasso (pictured), Citroen's number one in fleet, recorded the same average emissions as in 2013. Credit, however, for the big year-on-year CO2 reduction.
6. Nissan - 76%. Most improved
The new Qashqai (pictured) has proved to be the catalyst for Nissan's jump up the table, producing a huge 19.5% cut in the model's average fleet emissions compared with the previous car. That helped the brand's overall CO2 drop, which was the most of any here, aided by the new Pulsar lower medium hatch.
7. Volkswagen - 70%
A surprisingly mixed bag from a company rapidly launching into the plug-in arena, with two more models set to join the two already on sale. A tiny 0.8% cut on 2013 average fleet emissions and a year-on-year CO2 increase for the Golf were the problem areas, but there's plenty of good stuff on the way.
8. Mercedes-Benz - 68%. Most models below 76g/km
Proof that big premium brands can still offer low-CO2, Mercedes' moves into plug-in and hybrid technology have provided a range of low-emission alternatives, and continued diesel development has given the brand a healthy decrease on 2013's average fleet emissions.
9. Ford - 58%
Ford heads a gaggle of four firms separated by just four percentage points around the middle of the table, offering a good range of models under 95g/km, but recording a comparatively small percentage drop on 2013's fleet figure. A brand with plenty around the middle of the sector, but little leading it.
10. BMW - 57%
BMW's average fleet emissions levelled off at a fairly high point last year, although the 3-series enjoyed a decent 2.5% fall and the i3 and i8 plug-in models scored the brand some useful points. It will be interesting to monitor where BMW's electric strategy, both with the 'i' brand and in the mainstream models, takes it.
11. Skoda - 56%
This is a decent result for a brand without any plug-ins, and is the highest score of those lacking that technology. On the plus side, the Octavia did well against both the sector average and its previous year result, but there's seemingly not a massive amount in the pipeline apart from the new Superb.
12. Audi - 55%
Audi is on the verge of making some big green breakthroughs, promising plug-in versions of every mainstream model to follow the A3 E-tron (pictured) launched late last year. The A3's static year-on-year CO2 figure didn't help, and the firm will be hoping for a more dramatic drop in average emissions this year.
13. Seat - 46%
The Leon actually increased its emissions figure year-on-year as the model range expanded to take in three-door and estate models. But that overall fleet average is low, and the Leon (pictured) still scores well against the sector average. A plug-in version like sister cars VW Golf and Audi A3 would have made a big difference.
14. Hyundai - 43%
The biggest green story for Hyundai is still, unfortunately, a niche bit of the market, with the Korean firm very much at the forefront of hydrogen technology. Otherwise, it's not a brilliant result for a firm much improved in quality and appeal, but the future looks brighter.
15=. Kia - 40%
One place behind sister brand Hyundai, Kia's biggest score was for its future environmentally friendly vehicles, which was at odds with where its current range is at. A 0.8% increase in year-on-year fleet emissions was the biggest move in the wrong direction across the top 20 in the industry.
15=. Vauxhall - 40%
A focus on improving engine refinement has taken priority over making them cleaner at General Motors, so Vauxhall is still waiting for across-the-board competitiveness. A very high average emissions figure for the Astra should be rectified later this year, and it's a shame the plug-in Ampera is being dropped.
17=. Honda - 38%
Honda is a brand in limbo, close to getting back on its feet with a range of new models coming through in 2015, and it showed in the results. Only a handful of Civics get below 96g/km, and the lack of cross-range efficiency proved costly. At least there are new things on the way that will help lift the overall situation.
17=. Land Rover - 38%
A brand that has unsurprisingly struggled, given its range of large, high-emission models, but the 4.2% reduction on 2013 fleet average emissions showed things are heading in the right direction. More lower-emission versions of its most popular models will follow this year, continuing the downward tren.
19=. Fiat - 36%
Fiat suffers from having a mainly small range of models that are lower emission by virtue of size rather than efficiency, although it is expanding upwards with the new 500X crossover (pictured) coming soon. The small car range is reflected in the 114g/km average emissions, up with the best in the market.
19=. Mini - 36%
It started well for Mini, with a healthy drop last year on an already low emission figure. However, a small number of sub-95g/km cars, the Countryman crossover being Mini's lower medium model, and the lack of future models to help bring down emissions across the range meant a low score.
Greenest car makers 2015 results
So it's a new name at the top of our table, making it four different manufacturers that have won in eight years. However, five-time champion Toyota ran Volvo incredibly close, with the other previous winners Peugeot and Renault also right in the mix.
Nissan, which used to struggle in this analysis, has risen dramatically thanks to new models, and kudos also to BMW and Hyundai for emphatic moves up the chart.
Mini, Fiat and Land Rover admittedly struggle due to having model ranges not the best suited to core fleet applications, but they serve well the lower-volume niches around the mainstream, while Land Rover in particular showed some big percentage reductions from its admittedly very high average emissions base.
Vauxhall's focus on engine refinement has taken precedent over reducing emissions on much of its range, and it shows in the result against its mainstream competition. The new Astra will have an impact, but probably not in time for next year's research.
Thanks again to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders for help pulling together this feature, which we hope will provide guidance on the manufacturers offering the best all-round low-emission package.