Automaker Rankings 2018

The Environmental Performance of Car Companies

Published Jun 4, 2018


The numbers are in, and the trend is clear: While the industry is making the cleanest cars on record, major automakers have slowed the reduction of global warming emissions, despite having the technology to go much further.

Some of this slowdown is a result of the industry-wide shift in sales from cars to SUVs. However, a closer analysis shows that not all manufacturers invest equally to reduce global warming emissions from the vehicles they sell, regardless of the fleet mix. Some automakers have continued to ratchet down their average emissions, even as SUVs make up a greater share of their sales.

Beginning with this report, we have decided to no longer award the “Greenest Automaker” title. Our study of emissions is too narrow to constitute a sufficient assessment of a manufacturer’s sustainability. Additionally, the title does not consider the technological leadership of smaller firms. In this year’s rankings instead we focus on technological leadership across the entire industry and the benefits it brings to consumers.


Compared to the last Automaker Rankings:

  • Toyota increased their average emissions
  • Hyundai-Kia and Ford emit the same, on average, as they did four years ago.
  • Tesla tops the list of lowest average emissions with its small, all-electric fleet.
  • Honda, the best performing large automaker, placed a distant second.

There is no excuse for this slowed progress. Engineers at these companies have consistently designed innovative technologies to make better, cleaner and more efficient cars that benefit consumers, and that comply with the emissions standards. But automakers barely deploy even some of the most cost-effective and readily available technologies in today’s vehicle fleet.

An opportunity to lead

Automakers have renewed lobbying efforts to weaken federal vehicle standards, and have delayed technology deployment designed to provide consumers with more efficient, cleaner vehicles in every class. But, it could be different. The auto industry has the opportunity to lead to a cleaner future.

Manufacturers and suppliers have developed a wide range of technologies to reduce fuel use; many of these technologies have barely begun to be rolled out. History shows that in the absence of strong standards, manufacturers tend to use their resources to boost vehicle performance alone, foregoing reductions in fuel use and increasing emissions.

Numerous automakers say that action on climate change is important, but their actions and their emissions show that while they may talk a good game, the industry is not ready to walk the walk.

This report outlines concrete steps that each manufacturer can take to move toward the more sustainable future in which so many claim to believe. If automakers seize the opportunity to innovate and cut emissions, maybe the next Automaker Rankings will show that automakers are actually accelerating toward a cleaner future instead of fighting to slam on the brakes.

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