Fuel figures ‘mislead’ car buyers
LONDON — Consumers could be spending an average of thousands more on fuel a year than they thought they would as a report by independent British consumer company which suggests manufacturers are misleading consumers by overstating the fuel-economy figures to make their cars seem more efficient.
The report found that only three of the 200 models tested by the company across 2013 and 2014 reached the official miles-per-gallon (mpg) figure stated in information supplied by their manufacturer, with cars falling short by an average of 13 percent.
In contrast, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV hybrid was the worst performing vehicle, only managing 67mpg in testing despite the official figures suggesting it could achieve 148mpg. It means that the annual fuel cost more than doubles to £841 (M14 643).
Fuel efficiency tests have not been updated since 1997 and as a result Which?, and other consumer organisations, believe “it simply doesn’t represent real-world driving and is riddled with loopholes”.
The New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), currently used to calculate mpg figures, has not been updated to account for recent advances in motoring that include the use of stop-start and hybrid technology.
In addition, the test is carried out with all ancillary loads turned off, meaning that air conditioning, heated windows and lights are all turned off to increase efficiency.
Roof rails, extra lights and door mirrors can be removed to make the car lighter and there is no restriction on the air pressure of tyres.
As a result, Which? is calling for the European Commission to introduce its new testing procedure in two years’ time, as scheduled, despite it “facing heavy pressure from the car industry to delay the change until 2020”.
It says the process “needs to be completed properly without rushing to meet unrealistic deadlines, so that it is robust”.
The new test will closely mirror the one carried out by which uses a rolling road, allowing the test to be completed in exactly the same way every time.
The which test cycle also includes more comprehensive testing at higher speeds where cars burn more fuel, and is carried out with the air conditioning, headlights, and radio on. Which executive director Richard Lloyd said: “The cost of fuel is one of the biggest concerns for consumers which is why fuel efficiency has become an important selling point for new cars.
“The new test should be brought in without delay so consumers are no longer misled by fantasy mpg figures.”
But Mitsubishi Motors UK managing director Lance Bradley disputed the claims.
He said: “The current test regime for emissions and fuel consumption test is outdated and does the industry no favours but the suggestion that we in some way are misleading car buyers is well wide of the mark and irresponsible.”
All manufacturers are required to put their cars through a strict official test, called the NEDC (New European Drive Cycle).
This has been around since the 1970s and, Mitsubishi says, makes no account of new plug-in hybrid technology.
As the Outlander PHEV can be driven under electric power alone, it can complete part of its journey (32.5 miles officially) without using any fuel. This affects the official fuel con- sumption tests. If the vehicle is used mainly for lots of small journeys between charges it will use very little fuel, meaning it’ll be more efficient than the official 148mpg figure.
Alternatively, if it is used for long journeys without being charged, it will use considerably more fuel.
Car manufacturers have been accused of misleading customers about fuel efficiency.