Environmental performance has become a top priority for most automakers, as the general public and consumers become more concerned with greenhouse gas emissions and looming global climate change. As vehicle manufacturers have shifted their priorities, emissions scores and fuel efficiency have improved drastically to keep in line with strict government standards, credited with being the catalyst behind the car company’s new policies. The advent of electric cars into the market has also helped with the shift, but there are still some companies lagging behind.
The Union Of Concerned Scientists has released a report of the top environmentally friendly car companies for 2014, and the findings contain few surprises. Composed of eight of the world’s top-selling automakers, the report reveals that there has been improvement across the board in efficiency and emissions standards. The rankings themselves measure the emission of pollution by each company’s fleet, and one big takeaway is that since 1998, the average new car has become 43 percent more clean.
As the rankings reveal, the big three American companies have some catching up to do to the rest of the pack, as they lag behind in adopting cleaner technologies or creating their own. The top companies should come as no surprise to car enthusiasts, however. The report scores each automaker with a numerical score, with the average landing at 100. The lower the score, the lower the pollution, and the lower the pollution, the better. In brief, the lower the numerical score, the higher the company ranked.
Read on the see the top eight ‘greenest’ vehicle manufacturers, as compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Coming as little surprise, Chrysler ((FIATY.PK) came in at the bottom of the greenest automakers list for 2014. While the company has seen substantial improvement over the years towards a greener vehicle, it still has a lot of catching up to do to take on the companies ranking above it. Chrysler achieved a score of 114.9 on the report’s scale, well above the industry average of 100.
Chrysler looks to improve with new offerings from its offshoot brands, like Jeep and Dodge, which are both offering new vehicles and redesigns that include more aerodynamic designs and incorporate fuel-efficient technology. The Jeep Renegade is set to debut soon, which will be Jeep’s smallest model on the market, and probably its most efficient. There is also a distinct lack of hybrid vehicles across the company’s several brands, dragging its score down even further. Even with the coming vehicles, Chrysler has a a tough road ahead if it plans to catch up.
7. General Motors
Ranking second-to-last on the report is General Motors. Although the Chevrolet brand has been releasing a number of fuel efficient cars over the past several years like the Spark, Sonic, and Cruze, the company is still a big player in the larger-vehicle market, with Chevy’s Silverado pickup line, and GMC’s Sierra trucks and bigger SUVs. Like Chrysler, GM has shown improvement, but not nearly enough to compete with foreign brands. The company has also introduced a number of hybrid vehicles in the past, but their reception has historically been lukewarm. Also, GM’s foray into plug-in hybrids have not taken off to the point that they expected due to high prices.
GM achieved a score of 109.9 on the report’s findings, still higher than the average of 100. As GM continues to evolve the vehicle lineups within its American brands, it should be able to bring its score down for future rankings. New, more compact models for Buick and Cadillac are a start, but consumers will need to wait and see how much improvement GM can muster.
The final American company on the list, Ford was able to post better scores than its counterparts GM and Chrysler, but still considerably lower than the remaining companies. Ford scored 104.5, far behind the next-best automaker but well-above the two behind it.
Ford has been taking some initiative in tackling its vehicles’ inefficiencies, with new and improved versions of models like the Focus and Fusion. Ford has also been releasing models under its Energi banner, which greatly outperform their standard cousins in efficiency. Ford’s luxury line, Lincoln, has been making a bit of headway in the hybrid department, but is still an afterthought for many consumers. The company’s EcoBoost technology also gives it an edge above other car makers, but due to the fact that the study looks at the entire fleet of vehicles, Ford’s pickup and SUV lines likely hurt its score in the end.
The first non-American automaker on the list is also the first to hit a score less than the industry average of 100. Volkswagen was able to hit a score of 92.6, well-below all three American companies. The score also puts them right in the mix with the next few companies as well. Volkswagen has been a long-time leader in efficiency standards, introducing many diesel-powered models and smaller cars built for the open road.
The company has announced redesigns to models like the Passat that will also help its score in coming years, by making the car lighter and smaller, along with coming hybrid models. For now, Volkswagen is in the thick of it, but still a ways behind the top environmentally friendly car maker.
4. Nissan (NSANY.PK)
Tied with Volkswagen in the 2014 rankings is Nissan. Much like Volkswagen, Nissan’s score of 92.6 puts it way ahead of American manufacturers, but still lagging behind the top companies. Nissan has a fairly diverse lineup, that includes several car models, in addition to pickup trucks and SUVs.
The company’s adoption of aerodynamic designs and fuel-efficient technology have all made a difference, and in coming years Nissan should be able to lower its score substantially. The popular Leaf EV that Nissan produces is already climbing the charts as a customer favorite, but still has a long way to go before it can match up with the sales of cars like the Prius. The Leaf has probably been a big factor in bolstering Nissan’s score, which should improve with time.
Breaking into the top three is Toyota, which isn’t that much of a surprise to anyone who has been following the auto industry over the past decade. Toyota bested Nissan and Volkswagen by a small margin, hitting a score of 92.2 on the report’s scale. While Toyota is playing catch-up with two other car companies, it still completely outclasses all three American car makers.
Toyota has been a leader in building efficient vehicles for many years now, as even its pickup trucks and SUVs tend to hit very good efficiency marks. The company’s car line, especially models like the Prius, play a major role in jetting Toyota up the rankings. As the technology continues to improve and become more popular, Toyota can look forward to hitting even better scores in the future.
A consumer favorite all-around, Honda has done an excellent job at making fuel efficiency and adopting a ‘green’ platform a priority company-wide. Many consumers look to Honda models because of their reputation for excellent fuel-economy alone, and with recent redesigns to popular models and hybrid introductions, the company’s clout has only grown.
Honda achieved a score of 90.2, beating out almost every other car company in the world. For comparison, the company that ended up last on our list was Chrysler, a full 24 points behind Honda. As Honda continues to innovate and produce high-quality, efficient vehicles, it may have a shot in coming years at taking down the top company, as crowned by Union of Concerned Scientists.
Taking the crown as the most environmentally friendly automaker in the world is Hyundai-Kia. The company was able to completely outclass every other car maker, boasting a very impressive score of 86.4, nearly 30 points ahead of the last place finisher Chrysler. Looking at Hyundai’s score, it really puts into perspective how far American companies have to go to catch up.
As Hyundai has exploded in popularity over the past decade, much of its growth has been thanks to its line of sporty and efficient models. Together with Kia, the company has built a solid reputation among consumers for being capable, long-lasting and trustworthy, much like its counterparts in Honda and Toyota. A lack of pickup trucks and large SUVs also help Hyundai and Kia keep their score low, in contrast to most other companies on the list. Models like the Sonata Hybrid and Kia Soul EV are also gaining traction in the market for hybrid and EV shoppers. With new hybrid models and EV vehicles surely in the mix for coming years, guaranteeing Hyundai and Kia a spot on the list for the foreseeable future.
For consumers seeking the ultimate green vehicle, Hyundai or Kia is the brand to choose in 2014.