Eco-rating the top 20 fleet brands
29 April 2016
For the ninth time, BusinessCar has taken its annual look at the top 20 fleet manufacturers and assessed which ones have the brightest shade of green credentials. Paul Barker delves into the details
A peek at the bottom of this page will reveal that there is a third different winner in three years in BusinessCar's green-rating feature, with Toyota reclaiming the number one spot that Renault took from it in 2014, before Volvo jumped to the front last year.
The BusinessCar eco-rating survey employs 10 categories, combining hard numbers with our own expert opinions to decide which brands are best-placed to help a fleet make the right choice environmentally.
And green choices are very much in the spotlight right now, thanks to the shenanigans at Volkswagen that first broke in the US before making their way to Europe like a plague - the full effects of which are still to play out. But safe to say, the four VW Group brands involved - VW, Seat, Audi and Skoda - have been marked down accordingly, as you'd be hard pushed to claim that any of them offer the best eco-friendly options right now, while they are still trying to sort out fixes for cars emitting more than they are supposed to.
Our methodology includes kind help from the data experts at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, who are capable of providing a wealth of information on what is happening with new car registrations.
This year we have received the average emissions of cars registered as fleet during 2015, to score manufacturers on that and how they have changed since 2014. We've also acquired the data on how the emissions of each of the top 20 brands' biggest-selling fleet models have shifted compared with 2014, and how they compare with the average emissions of all cars registered as fleet in that segment. Surprisingly, in the case of eight of the 20, that's upwards, rather than the expected improvement.
We've also looked at the latest EU data (2014) on the manufacturers' average weight per g/km of CO2 emitted. It's all very well only building small, light and therefore efficient cars, but fleets need vehicles that are fit for purpose, and the premium manufacturers sell a larger proportion of bigger and heavier cars, so this measure allows that difference to be taken into account.
The figure represents how many kilogrammes each car registered in Europe by the manufacturer weighs per g/km of CO2 it emits, with higher results better because they show greater efficiency for the mass. The EU figures also include a credit system where ultra-low emission vehicles registered by the company enable it to make allowances for regular models.
Using the www.businesscar.co.uk CO2 calculator, BusinessCar has also looked at the number of individual models available below the crucial 76g/km and 95g/km benefit-in-kind points, giving credit to those manufacturers that offer the greatest range of choices to drivers and fleets. To finish, we have used our experience and judgement to assess which manufacturers offer the greatest all-round eco effort today, and which have the best range of products and initiatives on the way in the next couple of years.
At the end of it all, we've totted up the marks out of five over 10 categories to give a percentage figure. In the cases of a tie, we've listed higher the manufacturer that performed better in our 2015 analysis.
This isn't an absolutely definitive assessment because each fleet has its own unique and specific requirements, but it should illustrate some of the stronger manufacturers in certain areas and help those companies looking to make single marquee or limited-badge fleet decisions based, at least partially, on eco credentials.
1. Toyota - 92%
Toyota's investment in hybrid technology reaps CO2 dividends, and also places it well in terms of any moves towards local air pollution taking on greater importance. Great year-on-year reductions in emissions and an excellent range of models below 95g/km also score highly for the brand, while the Yaris and Prius are the only sub-76g/km models on sale that don't need to be plugged in.
2. Mercedes - 82%
A remarkable turnaround for a brand that was languishing near the bottom of these surveys not so long ago, and that climbed from eighth last year to grab the runner-up spot this time. Big moves into plug-in and hybrid models help, but Mercedes is also recording long-awaited hefty falls in emissions for its mainstream models, the latest example of which is the new E-class executive model.
Last year's chart-topper scores a still very credible joint third in 2016, with Volvo's twin strategy of electrification of its entire range by 2020 and increasingly efficient diesel engines paying dividends. The company has got the best weight per g/km ratio of the major manufacturers, proving larger cars can be clean.
A perennial podium finisher in our green ranking, Peugeot's diesel technology advances and model range dominated by smaller and lighter models helps it to the lowest average CO2 emissions figure in Europe, although UK fleet emissions are beaten by Citroen and Renault. A good range of sub-95g/km cars and the 308's very impressive 82g/km figure are particular highlights.
Renault offers a range of low-emission options, but that hasn't really changed in the past year, with the only new model being the larger Kadjar crossover. The new Megane, coming this summer, will be a helpful step, launching with clever new emissions tech.
Citroen benefits from having a range of predominantly smaller cars, and its diesel engines form a good base for low-CO2 figures. The C4 hatchback has an impressive 86g/km emissions figure, and the firm recorded a 5.5% fall on its 2014 fleet emissions - leaving it second only to Renault overall.
The Qashqai increased Nissan's average emissions of vehicles going into fleets, which cost marks, while the Pulsar lower medium hatchback could be more efficient. However, on the flip side, the company scored well for a range of models at low-emissions bands.
The facelifted Focus brought a big drop in average CO2, while Ford also has a good range of sub-95g/km alternatives. A hybrid Mondeo adds another dimension to Ford's offering, and while there is an electric Focus, the brand doesn't seem in a rush to push the technology.
BMW has made big progress in the past year, with plug-in 3-series, 2-series Active Tourer and X5 models now on sale, as well as revisions to the 1- and 3-series. The 3-series went up in average emissions terms last year, and is well above the sector average, although the electric 'i' brand is helping.
New engines and a new five-door model have cut Mini's emissions, with the new Clubman potentially making further inroads. The weakness at the sharp end of low-CO2 cars could be rectified with the next Countryman, which should offer a plug-in variant.
The best of the VW Group brands, Skoda scored well for average fleet emissions and its 4.2% drop versus 2014, and it has a decent number of sub-95g/km offerings. A total lack of ultra-low CO2 cars didn't help, and the EU weight-versus-emissions figure was poor.
A steady set of results for VW, which didn't score a five out of five in any category, but only dropped to one out of five once. Highlights include the Golf's sub-90g/km emissions, although the company's iconic hatchback did record an increase in CO2 figures year on year.
Audi suffers more than its VW Group siblings for having larger and heavier models, but scored well on the weight-versus-emissions figure. The A3's good CO2 versus the sector average was another positive point, but there is a dearth of product below 95g/km.
Electric, plug-in and hybrid technology - all on the same car for the first time in the form of the Ioniq. This will make it through on various Hyundai models, and improve a range that isn't currently the most competitive in terms of emissions.
Vauxhall moves up the table on the back of improved CO2 for the outgoing Astra, as well as the volume of models below 95g/km. Meanwhile, the new Astra's range of 88g/km models also helped it score highly, although Vauxhall's average CO2 is very high compared with rivals.
Kia will launch a hybrid late this year to complement the Soul EV. High average fleet emissions that didn't fall at all during 2015 were unhelpful, but the Ceed's decent drop in average emissions among fleet registrations was good, even if it's still high for the class.
17. Land Rover
A brand known for large off-roaders is never going to do brilliantly in an eco-credential survey, although Land Rover does record the biggest drop in emissions compared with last year. This is due to new engines in the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport models.
One of only two brands (with Fiat) to record a rise in average fleet CO2, Seat is missing a big-impact green model despite sister firms VW and Audi offering plug-in tech. Bright spots are a low average emissions figure and the Leon doing well in terms of average CO2.
Fiat, a maker of predominantly small cars, dominated by the 500 city car, has branched out, and models such as the 500X crossover are naturally larger and with higher emissions, hence a 0.9% rise in average CO2 last year. That is from a low base, but reveals the need for Fiat to introduce low-emission tech to progress.
The signs are there that things are getting better for Honda from a product perspective, while the next step will be to become more competitive on emissions. This is not necessarily easy for a Japanese firm where the home plus the core US markets haven't taken to diesel.
Greenest car makers 2016 results
This is a re-coronation for Toyota, a previous six-times winner of our annual green appraisal, but a brand that hadn't topped the table since 2013 as Renault and then Volvo scored highest. Toyota was close last year, but made the step up from second with a near-faultless performance across our categories of assessment, comfortably leaving Mercedes-Benz in second spot. Mercedes is interesting as it's the only brand making sustained year-on-year progress up our chart. Having languished at the bottom for several years, it got its act together on both CO2 of its regular models and with plug-in tech, and that has seen it march up the rankings.
Last year's victor, Volvo, slipped to a still very credible third spot, joint with Peugeot and just ahead of Citroen and Renault as the French brands continued their perennial good performance in our analysis.
The biggest mover was Mini, jumping from joint last in 2015 to the middle of the table this year thanks to some new greener products helping drive down emissions. VW headed in the opposite direction, with average emissions for fleet registrations of the Golf actually rising year on year, as well as BusinessCar giving it a mild penalty for the emissions scandal that has engulfed the group.
Thanks again to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders for access to the huge volumes of motor industry registration data it holds, which helped us conclude that Toyota has the strongest case for fleets looking to make green decisions on their company cars.