/ Motoring

Thanks to you, we’re calling on car makers to come clean on fuel claims

Fuel claims campaign logo

Following your resounding support, we’ve launched a campaign calling on the car industry to Come Clean on Fuel Claims. Do you want action on misleading fuel claims?

When we asked for your reactions to the Volkswagen emissions scandal we weren’t quite expecting to see an influx of more than 400 comments. Almost 10,000 of you also voted in our poll asking whether the government should implement more stringent tests for car makers – 95% said ‘yes’.

Off the back of this response, we launched our Come Clean on Fuel Claims campaign on Saturday.

We’ve been looking into the issue of misleading fuel claims for years, and we’d been using our research to get the new fuel economy test implemented by 2017. However, your input gave us the impetus needed to go big and launch our petition:

The clock is ticking for car makers to respond

On the VW scandal, Steve told us:

‘I’m not naive enough to think that companies won’t dress up the facts to obtain custom, but the level of deceit is huge. I’m just waiting for the rest of the big names to be implicated.’

On that point, we gave car makers seven days to announce whether their fuel tests have been manipulated. You can read how the responded here.

Come clean on fuel claims

So what does our Come Clean on Fuel Claims campaign call for? We want:

  • All car manufacturers to announce whether their emissions and fuel economy tests have been manipulated.
  • The government to immediately publish a timetable for a genuinely independent investigation and ensure anyone found to be affected can get easy access to redress.
  • The European Commission to announce how it will bring forward new tests with full and proper independent oversight by the end of the year.

We’ll continue to engage with key stakeholders in the UK and Brussels and bring them your calls for action. We’re also looking into what emissions rigging would mean for you if Volkswagen is found to have used the same technology here in the UK.

In short, a big thank you to all of you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. We’ll keep you posted on our progress, but in the meantime please sign our petition and tell us what you think.

[UPDATE 7 October 2015] – In the aftermath of the VW emissions scandal, we asked all the major car brands whether their vehicle testing methods were misleading consumers. That deadline has passed, and of the 17 who have responded, 16 have said they don’t manipulate emissions and fuel economy tests.

[UPDATE 12 October 2015] – Volkswagen’s UK boss, Paul Willis, faced the government’s transport select committee in the face of the VW emissions scandal. Mr Willis apologised ‘sincerely and unreservedly’ for letting customers down and said that it ‘will take all the necessary steps to regain trust’. He also added that VW had ‘mishandled the situation’.

There was no mention of redress for car owners, with Mr Willis saying that ‘it’s premature to talk about loss of value’. In response, our executive director Richard Lloyd said:

‘Admitting it mishandled the situation is only the start for Volkswagen Group UK. Consumers shouldn’t have to wait months before being told what compensation they could be entitled to for any losses they’ve already faced.’

Comments
Member

It is important not to confuse two issues.
Cheating by car makers, as VW has (and others in the USA) is totally unacceptable. I don’t know how you apply sanctions, though, without damaging the business to an extent that may put many innocent employees jobs at risk. I’d suggest financial penalties, or criminal prosecution with potential custodial sentences, for those responsible would be much more effective.
If car makers have not cheated then the mpg and emission data is largely not what you’ll get in “real life” because of the inadequacy of the NEDC test they have to use. This is imposed by the EU from which the published figures come. We should berate the EU for their incompetence in producing a badly written test in the first place, and in not keeping it updated as driving habits and car technology changed – quite radically in some ways.
All I would ask is that when we campaign, make sure we target the right perpetrators.

Member

Heartily agree. That actual numbers given as mpg are not real life results, but because all manufacturers use the same test it is a valid comparison between different cars. Bathroom scales do not give an accurate weight but if two people weighing themselves on the same scales it can still be determined who is the heavier.

Member

Except, Pete, that not all car tests are carried out exactly to the standard and it is open to manufacturers to decide where to have their vehicles tested. Moreover, manufacturers do not necessarily present the vehicles for testing according to identical standards and can make modifications to the tyre pressures, loads, aerodynamics etc that affect the results.

Member

The European consumer organisation BEUC explains some of the ways that car manufacturers modify cars prior to testing in order to produce better figures in the NEDC test: http://www.beuc.eu/publications/beuc-x-2015-016_the_great_fuel_consumption_scam.pdf Since different manufacturers are likely to modify their cars in different ways, it make a mockery of comparative testing.

Hopefully the recent ‘scandal’ will help cut delays in introduction of new testing procedures (WLTP) that will produce figures that better reflect modern driving, though as every driver will appreciate, their fuel economy figures will depend on driving style, traffic, terrain, temperature, and other factors.

Until we have the new testing procedures in place, perhaps we should ban manufacturers from modifying vehicles prior to testing.

Member

From what I have found previously the laxity in the EU NEDC test standard that does not prevent certain modifications being made is not the prime source of the disparity between the test figures and “real life”. The significant reason is the inadequacy of the standard when applied to modern cars and driving. So unless you rewrite the standard to tighten up test requirements I do not see how you can “ban” the modifications it allows.
We need the EU to ensure their replacement standard is fit for purpose and, if so, implemented as soon as possible. However, by fit for purpose should also include not imposing unrealistic requirements on the car producers which is, i believe, one of the reasons it is being delayed.

Member

Even if the NEDC test is responsible for the majority of the discrepancy between the published fuel consumption figures and what motorists achieve, I see no reason for not taking action to stop modification of vehicles prior to testing. When the NEDC tests were compiled, did anyone think about the ways that manufacturers might cheat to produce better results? Tape up the doors, overinflated the tyres, remove rear seats etc to cut weight, disconnect the alternator, change the tyres and oil, fiddle with the brakes, and goodness knows what else. How difficult is it to insist that cars are tested as you or I would buy and use them? The purpose of the tests is to produce figures that can be compared, and if the vehicles are being modified in different ways, the value of testing is debased. Even without legislation, manufacturers can declare that their tests relate to unmodified vehicles – and that could happen immediately. I would respect any manufacturer that did this.

I fully agree with your comments about the replacement test.

Member

wavechange, I have no disagreement with this. But a standard that is written is exactly what it says – standard test conditions that everyone should follow. To ensure there is no doubt in testers’ procedures the conditions need to be unambiguous. The EU could easily issue an amendment (or should have already) that covers the “lax” areas. It is their responsibility and they’ve had years to deal with it. Why don’t they?

However, in mitigation, there is a pretty comprehensive report that looks at the deficiencies of NEDC and the WRTP replacement that includes comments on the extent to which manufacturers have used the loopholes and their effect. They concluded, from memory, that if all the loopholes were used to maximum benefit they could give a maximum gain of around 1/3 of the NEDC “inaccuracy” (the difference between test and real life”). They found however no evidence that this “maximum” was being achieved.

Having said this, there is absolutely no point in having a test standard that is not regularly amended to keep up to date with technology and to remove vagueness. It is like having a light bulb standard written around filament lamps that is applied to CFLs and LEDs.

Member

Would it not be possible for some repeat tests to be carried out on cars selected at random from showrooms, in showroom condition?
If results are worse than in ‘type tests’ then they would be published instead?