Fleet News

Fuel economy figures in the dock

Manufacturers will be prevented from making misleading claims about fuel consumption after a complaint was upheld against Audi.

The German carmaker had advertised the Audi A3 TDI as “the most fuel efficient Audi ever” achieving “a quite remarkable 68.9mpg on a combined cycle”.

However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a complaint from somebody who had bought the car and had been unable to achieve that fuel consumption.

Audi told the ASA that fuel consumption figures did not give an accurate representation of the actual fuel consumption which could be expected from any particular vehicle and were provided only to enable comparisons between different vehicles or models.

Fuel economy figures are based on rolling road tests in laboratory conditions carried out in accordance with European regulations.

However, the ASA upheld the complaint against Audi and it will now force carmakers to include a disclaimer in adverts to explain that quoted mpg figures may not reflect real-world performance.

“This is a significant ruling that draws a line in the sand,” said an ASA spokesman.

“It is not just about Audi. It sets a precedent that will have ramifications for other car manufacturers.

“The ruling sets out quite clearly that qualification is needed when quoting mpg figures. There will be an industry-wide communication to manufacturers and trade associations so they are aware of what to expect in future.”
 


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Comments

  • Patriot - 09/04/2013 21:38

    Not before time.Car manufacturers have been 'stretching the positives' about fuel consumption for their particular models for years. No car buyer has ever achieved the manufacturers quoted mpg figures in real life. Virtual pint to the ASA!

  • Rob - 10/04/2013 11:18

    This still doesn't tackle the fundamental problem that the European regulation laboratory test bears no resemblance to reality and is wholly misleading. I cannot understand how this is allowed to continue.

  • Chris Lord - 10/04/2013 11:25

    Whilst action may appear to be taken, will Manufacturers not still be able to claim anything by using the disclaimer? Again, a tweek to the rules to pasify the consumer. What we need is honesty. With £millions being spent on R&D, testing etc, figures closer to reality must be available. If not, force the change to the test.

  • Charlie12 - 10/04/2013 11:33

    The published figures are provided by the NEDC test so are independent. Yes the lab tests and results bear no resemblance to the real world but at least it means you can compare a Ford Focus to a Vauxhall Astra to a Renault Megane to a VW Golf and know they all were tested identically. If one perfoms better in the lab then it should perform better on the road. That said it does make a mockery of Whole Life Cost calculations that are based on the tested figures.

  • Rob Chisholm, Applewood Vehicle Finance Ltd - 10/04/2013 12:55

    More than anything this only tells us that the laboratory conditions under which the tests are carried out are flawed. The manufacturers prepare a vehicle/s for the test so that they are optimised. I can't say I blame them for doing that, but what should happen is that the testing body should be visiting the manufacturer and selecting a vehicle from a compound full of identical vehicles for testing under more rigorous real life conditions. It's all very well saying that the published figures provide a relative view of economy from one model to another, but the reality is that the differences between the lab and the road are not consistent from model to model. So e.g. an Audi A4 may differ by 15%, whereas a BMW 3 Series may differ by on 10% and a Ford Mondeo may differ by only 5% from the published figures. It all makes a mockery of what we are told, and the manufacturers are only too willing to hide behind the that that the lab figures are the only ones they are allowed to publish, because if they said "but we would expect you to achieve a figure 10%-15% (say) less than the Official Consumption Figures" they would be leaving themselves even more open to action than Audi have experienced in this case.

  • J Walls - 10/04/2013 13:31

    Its ridiculous that achievable mpg should be based on Lab conditions. They should have a test track that reflects hills, potholes, stopping at traffic lights, etc. If the test tracks were built to an exact design so that all tests were even, then surely you would have a fairer and more accurate mpg statement. I, for one, am pleased that this practice has been exposed and challenged as so many people believe the printed mpg figures to be true.

    • Rob Chisholm, Applewood Vehicle Finance Ltd - 10/04/2013 14:27

      @J Walls - I agree up to a point. The problem with having a test track is that it will be outside, and any test will be subject to the conditiosn at the time; cold/warm, wet/dry,humid/dry etc along with the road surface, altitude, tyre grip. Too many variables. The lab is the place to do it - the conditions under which it is conducted is the devil.

    • Patriot - 10/04/2013 14:52

      @Rob Chisholm, Applewood Vehicle Finance Ltd - I do not agree. How would you propose to re-create 'real' driving conditions in a lab? It would be better,IMV,for manufacturers to give 10/12 cars to selected customers for 6 months and evaluate the feedback including mpg. I understand this is something Ford of America did some years ago and the data they got was better than anything achieved in a lab.

    • Rob Chisholm, Applewood Vehicle Finance Ltd - 10/04/2013 15:12

      @Patriot - You misunderstand me. Sorry, I will try to be a little clearer. When I said 'conditions' I meant the 'rules' surrounding the test - so, for example, the lab would select the car to be used rather than the manufacturer delivering a perfectly prepared car. Providing consistency is what is important, and although the current tests supply that, they only provide optimistic consistency. I suspect the manner in which the tests are conducted is as much for expediency as it is for accuracy. I am not defending it, I am just offering an explanation. Conducting tests under the conditions you describe would mean A) that there would be no MPG data when a vehicle first goes on sale, or B) that the market launches would be delayed to an intolerable degree. We live in an imperfect world.

  • Paul Green - 10/04/2013 13:41

    I would agree that it is all relative in that if a car performs better in the lab, then it should also perform better on the road. However, is the lab test conducted in a wind tunnel where aerodynamics are taken into account? I am guessing not, and this is probably why we are seeing a resurgence of more "boxey" looking model styles. The solution could be for the manufacturers to negotiate to obtain raw fuel mpg data from their fleet customers. Most fleet managers will be recording and monitoring actual MPG's so the real world data is available in the marketplace, and this will be a broad crossection of driving styles and traffic conditions but it would be a very good average and more accurate than the lab tests. But I guess that some manufacturers won't be so keen on this idea if they know their models don't get anywhere near to the lab test figures. As a rule of thumb, when calculating whole life costs, I apply a factor of 85% of the manufacturers published combined cycle figure.

  • Earlybird - 10/04/2013 14:29

    Hoorah. Not sure how out there the message will get but that message about wholly incorrect MPG figures is at least gathering more momentum. Like Charlie12, I have to agree that Whole Life Cost calculations are hugely flawed by using these MPG figures and it's not even that everyone is an equal amount over and above real world returns. The process then makes those "better at manipultion of supposedly acheivable MPG's" head such Whole Life Cost calcualtions and potentially secure more business when frankly they probably should not. Smoke and Mirrors at its very best.

  • Earlybird - 10/04/2013 14:30

    Hoorah. Not sure how out there the message will get but that message about wholly incorrect MPG figures is at least gathering more momentum. Like Charlie12, I have to agree that Whole Life Cost calculations are hugely flawed by using these MPG figures and it's not even that everyone is an equal amount over and above real world returns. The process then makes those "better at manipultion of supposedly acheivable MPG's" head such Whole Life Cost calcualtions and potentially secure more business when frankly they probably should not. Smoke and Mirrors at its very best.

  • Rob Chisholm, Applewood Vehicle Finance Ltd - 10/04/2013 15:20

    Most fleets knows the real life data in any case. Their drivers will have Fuel Cards, and if they are using the facilities to their full capabilities then they will know on a month by month basis how any particualr model is performing. Taking this further, there would surely be nothing to stop the Fuel Card companies from publishing their data from across a very wide range of customers and their drivers if they wanted to.

    • Patriot - 10/04/2013 15:34

      @Rob Chisholm, Applewood Vehicle Finance Ltd - there would surely be nothing to stop the Fuel Card companies from publishing their data from across a very wide range of customers and their drivers if they wanted to. Eh? I thought Fuel Card companies looked at the amount of fuel purchased and charged accordingly? Since when did FC co's note the make and model of cars using their scheme(s). Driver fills tank. Driver hands over card and verifies Reg.number. Driver signs and goes. Please don't give Fuel Card companies any ideas to charge more for 'administration'! There is nothing complicated about monitoring fuel consumption for company/fleet vehicles,you should have a fair idea what to expect from each model anyway.

    • Rob Chisholm, Applewood Vehicle Finance Ltd - 10/04/2013 15:54

      @Patriot - The Fuel Card companies can, and do, provide a wide range of services to their customers already, and yes the Vehicle make, model, date of fill,place of fill, cost per litre and (importantly) speedo reading at fill should all get recorded under a good fuel and co.car policy. Not only that but they also provide their customers with monthly invoices, mileage reimbursement and VAT returns information. They have everything needed to provide real world data.

    • Rob Chisholm, Applewood Vehicle Finance Ltd - 10/04/2013 15:57

      Oh, I forgot to mention that all of the above information is used to also provide the customer with an average MPG reading between fills and also over a given period.

  • premierblue - 10/04/2013 22:27

    Interesting comment stream here and I'm pleased that the 'official' mpg figures are finally being questioned. As mpg is linked to CO2 emissions I'll be expecting some more pressure on manufacturers to prove their claims and wouldn't be surprised to see higher CCT as a result. I've never been able to square the 'sub-120 g/km with 185 bhp' claims, but maybe I'm just a cynic.

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