A new report says that all of Europe’s car manufacturers are set to meet a fuel economy target of 95 grams of CO2 per km (g/km) by 2021, except for the Italian auto-maker Fiat, and Germany’s BMW.

The new analysis of car-makers’ CO2 emissions in 2013 by Transport & Environment, a green campaign group, finds that on current trends, Volvo, Toyota, Peugeot-Citroen, Renault, Ford and Daimler will all hit the cleaner fuel goal early, while Volkswagen and Nissan will make it just in time.

But unless they speed up, Fiat and BMW will not hit the EU’s hard-fought over carbon benchmark until 2022 and 2024 respectively, holding out the prospect of a €95 corporate fine for every extra gram that each new car emits.

As both companies sell over a million new vehicles a year, Greg Archer, T&E’s clean vehicles manager, told EurActiv that he thought that the firms would be likely to grudgingly comply in practice.  

“However it does indicate which companies are ahead and which still have the most work to do,” he said. “It’s significant as some companies still have to make considerable strides in order to avoid the penalties. That will require very significant effort and investment from them.”

The figures, which are based on a trajectory measuring emission-cutting performances over the last six years, show that CO2 emissions from Fiat’s fleet actually rose last year, T&E says.

But the analysis does not consider loopholes in the EU’s legislation like ‘super-credits’ – which can be worth up to 7.5g/km per manufacturer in the 2020-2022 period. The credits are intended to incentivise the production of electric vehicles and hybrid cars, by allowing auto-makers to over-count their emissions-reducing effect.  

In 2013, it finds that all European auto-manufacturers achieved their 2015 targets at least two years ahead of schedule, despite pessimistic industry predictions.

In general, the report gives Europe’s car industry a relatively clean bill of health. Volvo reduced its fleet emissions by 8%, while Renault displaced Fiat as the manufacturer of the lowest-carbon, most fuel-efficient vehicles.

By comparison, non-European car manufacturers which are on the road to missing the 2021 target include Suzuki, General Motors, Hyundai, Mazda, and Honda.

Foreign competition

Car manufacturers in the EU have often argued that the EU’s measures will disadvantage them in competition with foreign car-makers. Speaking to EurActiv last year, Ivan Hodač, the then-secretary-general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said that the EU’s new targets were tougher than those anywhere else in the world.

“There is no other country that has the same targets,” he said, “and consequently, the investment industry will have to make in reaching these targets will be substantial.” Due to the economic crisis, the industry was “not exactly in an economic situation in which it can spend so much money for the investment but we are going to do it,” he added.

Luxury German car-makers such as Daimler and BMW were particular active in pushing Berlin to hold out for legislative concessions over the EU’s new fuel economy standards, contending that they were being unfairly singled out due to the 147g/km average emissions of their bulkier car models.  

But the new report contradicts this position, attributing the ability of car brands to meet fuel efficiency standards to company strategies, not car models.

"The report shows that most European carmakers are well positioned to hit their CO2 targets, irrespective of the size and type of vehicle they sell,” Archer said. “Industry claims to the contrary have just been scare-mongering."

After a bruising battle to push through the new fuel efficiency goals last year, the new figures may trip red flags for some environmentalists due to the political lobbying clout of car firms such as BMW, which gave €690,000 in political donations to Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union party last year.