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New car marketNewsDealerprofileNew car newsUsedRecruitmentcar analysisNews digestShowroomBy Jay Nagley, Redspy Automotive2012 is the year when the EU enforces its target of 130g/km of CO2 for new cars sold in the EU. Allegedly. At the end of 2011, only nine manufacturers had managed to get below the target, while the industry average figure is 138g/km of CO2. Yet the manufacturers are strangely calm, given that the fines potentially run into hundreds of millions of euros (or whatever currency exists in Brussels by the end of the year). In fact no-one is likely to miss their target, but neither is the industry average likely to be 130g/km of CO2 in 2012. The reason for this apparent contradiction is that only 65% of a major manufacturer's range has to be within the target. As far as the EU is concerned, over one-third of its range can produce as much CO2 as a Lamborghini Aventador in 2012. Only in 2015 does the whole range have to meet the target. Effec-tively, the EU current target is closer to 140g/km than 130g/km, but publishing a demanding figure enables the politicians to look green. Percentage cut for small producersAnd what of smaller manufacturers? Ones selling between 10,000 and 300,000 cars a year in the EU only have to reduce their CO2 by 25% between 2007 and 2012. Negotiated by the British Govern-ment to protect Jaguar Land Rover, it is largely academic: Land Rover had an average CO2 figure of more than 250g/km in 2007 and market forces have ensured that has dropped sharply every year since then. Car manufacturers will point to the fact that CO2 figures are declining at a decent rate (see table). Certainly there are few other industries which can claim a similar reduction. However, there are still questions as to how much of the improvement is coming from genu-inely better performance and how much is from learning how to perform better in the tests. The ECUs of pretty well all new cars can recog-nise when they are on the official test and imme-diately set the engine to run very lean. After all, the test is undertaken with high-quality fuel in a nice warm laboratory, so the engine does not require the tolerances normally allowed for adverse conditions. The test massively favours downsized engines. Most of it can be conducted either with the engine at idle, or with no more than 20% of the engine's power being used. Small engines are very good at light load. The danger that they have to be thrashed in the real world does not matter, because the tests are designed around gentle acceleration. Cars are definitely getting more economical. Whether they are getting more economical at the rate of 5% a year is a much more problematic question.It's an exam that no-one fails12013014015016020072008200920102011170CO2(g/km)Sales-weighted CO2 emissions (g/km)