New Rankings Show Automakers Improving Efficiency, Meeting Standards—and Capable of More

As Auto Industry Lobbyists Argue They Can’t Meet Standards, Technology Tells a Different Story

Published Jun 7, 2018

WASHINGTON (June 7, 2018)—As the Trump administration moves to undo efficiency and emissions standards, automakers—spurred by those standards—are delivering cleaner cars than ever. However, automakers have the technology to go much further, and need to do more to continue their progress on reducing global warming pollution and increasing fuel economy.

That’s what the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has found in their new Automaker Rankings, a close look at how auto manufacturers are reducing pollution from the cars and trucks they sell in the U.S.

“The auto industry’s trade groups pushed to re-open the standards and weaken them,” said Dave Cooke, senior vehicles analyst at UCS and the lead author of the new report. “The evidence shows how unnecessary that is. There’s a wide range of proven technologies automakers could be using to give consumers cleaner choices. The fact is, they’ve been meeting the standards without even taking full advantage of those technologies.

“The auto industry has a choice to make. Manufacturers can follow their engineers forward—or let their lobbyists drag us backward.”

This is the seventh iteration of the UCS Automaker Rankings, but for the first time, UCS is not naming a “Greenest Automaker.” As the auto industry evolves, many of the most innovative and effective clean technologies are being introduced by smaller manufacturers not historically captured in the Automaker Rankings. And while this analysis looks specifically at smog-forming air pollution and global warming emissions, sustainability must also include broader questions about manufacturing practices, supply chains and energy use not captured in this report.

“Many automakers, including Ford and Toyota, tout themselves as ‘green’ companies, and their executives talk a lot in public about sustainability and climate change,” said Cooke. “We need to judge them not just on what they say, but what they do.”

Among the eight major manufacturers examined, Honda’s fleet produces the least pollution. While Honda, like many other manufacturers, is shifting resources to trucks and SUVs, the company is still showing steady progress on reducing emissions. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler is once again selling the dirtiest vehicles, and appears to be gambling on weaker standards rather than putting in the effort to meet them.

American manufacturers are lagging well behind their competitors, risking these companies’ ability to compete in an increasingly carbon-conscious global marketplace. Meanwhile, many smaller manufacturers are demonstrating leadership and offering innovative paths forward—including Tesla, which has moved past gasoline engines entirely.

“No matter what kind of vehicle they want to buy, drivers expect automakers to offer them cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks,” said Michelle Robinson, Director of the Clean Vehicles Program at UCS. “Automakers are progressing, but they can go further. We need to resist the Trump administration's efforts to gut the standards that have been so effective at making sure we get cleaner choices every year.”