The advertised fuel consumption of new cars keeps falling. This could be good news for car drivers. Unfortunately, all too often cars are much more thirsty than advertised. A recent laboratory test run by our Italian member Altroconsumo revealed 18% - 50% more fuel consumption than manufacturers claimed. The cars tested were a Fiat Panda 1.2 and Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI.
How is this possible? Car manufacturers measure the fuel consumption of their cars using an outdated test called the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). This test allows for manipulation leading to unrealistically low fuel consumption results.
Consumers are thus misled about the real fuel consumption of the car and can end up paying more on fuel costs than expected.
A new and more appropriate test procedure, the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) has been developed and is expected to be introduced under EU law. However, car manufacturers are fighting to delay the date of its implementation.
The fuel consumption problem is also linked to the CO2 targets discussion.
See our news item: EU study: Car fuel consumption test is cutting consumer benefits of CO2 targets.
We will show you some of the tricks car manufacturers are using to reduce the fuel consumption during tests.
- The European Union should adopt legislation which would oblige manufacturers to use a new and more realistic test (the WLTP) from 2017 onwards. The WLTP is expected to close many of the loopholes currently exploited by car manufacturers and better simulate real driving conditions, with more modern and realistic driving scenarios.
- The European Union should also create an EU-wide type approval authority to ensure more coherent standards and procedures applied across the EU and for the purpose of conducting in-service conformity checks. In-service conformity checks should be carried out on production vehicles (i.e. mass produced vehicles that are offered for sale) and if the results differ significantly enough from the type-approval tests, then manufacturers would be obliged to change their figures.
- Car taxation (registration and circulation taxes) in the EU must be revised so that emissions become the key criterion for taxation in all Member States; for those countries that already correlate the tax base to emissions, the tax levels need to be adapted as soon as the new testing standard (WLTP) is applied.
- The car labelling Directive must be revised in order to provide consumers with better information at the point of sale and in advertisements
Ensuring fuel consumption testing gives consumers a correct indication of a car’s CO2 emissions is part of a bigger discussion to move to more sustainable mobility.
BEUC members have conducted multiple tests revealing the huge difference between laboratory test results and emissions when driving on the road.
Our Italian member Altroconsumo conducted the official fuel consumption tests on a Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI and a Fiat Panda 1.2. The declared fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of the VW Golf were more than 50% lower than the test results obtained by Altroconsumo. The declared fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of the Fiat Panda were more than 18% lower than the test results obtained by Altroconsumo.
On the basis of a motorist driving 15,000 km per year, those owners of the VW Golf model might have paid up to €509 more per year than what could have been expected from the company’s advertisements and €247 for the Panda.
On 24 February 2015 Altroconsumo launched their class action in court in Italy to help owners of these two cars get their money back. Check Altroconsumo’s press release and video (illustrating a car confession about the real fuel consumption and call for consumers to find out if they are entitled to a refund). BEUC issued a press statement backing this class action and a position paper on EU testing overhaul.
Italian consumers who want to join the class action to reclaim the money can register here and find out how much they overspent.
In March 2014, Dutch consumer group Consumentenbond published an article on the Ecotest results, showing the discrepancy between real and advertised consumption figures. Another test by Belgian consumer organisation Test-Achats showed discrepancies of up to 45%.
Check here for additional evidence from our Slovenian member. In a recent news report, German consumer organisation vzbv also called for the test procedures to be moved from the laboratory to the road to ensure more realistic figures.
Conference: “How to end the fuel testing scam?”
On 6 May 2015, BEUC held a conference, hosted by Mr. Michael Cramer, chairman of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee and Mr. Giovanni La Via, chairman of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee. During the conference we discussed what needs to happen to end the fuel consumption testing scam. Its focus was on a swift implementation of an alternative testing scheme and ensuring that consumers do not suffer from misleading commercial statements.
Summary report of the conference
Presentations given during the conference:
Discover "The great vehicle testing maze".
Our webpage exposes the problems with the way cars are tested and checked in Europe today and shows how the current situation could be improved in the future.
CO2 car labelling
CO2 car labelling