Carmakers reduced carbon emissions by wildly varying degrees last year with the best performers achieving four to five times larger cuts than the worst.
New figures published by European NGO, Transport & Environment (T&E) show BMW and Mazda led the field with 10 per cent and 8.2 per cent reductions to the average CO2 emissions for cars sold in Europe in 2008. But nine of the fourteen volume producers in the ranking achieved just 4 per cent or lower.
A new European law setting binding targets for average CO2 emissions was agreed at the end of last year. According to the report, the striking differences in performance by different carmakers reflect the amount of work each has to do to reach their new EU targets.
Progress slowed dramatically at Fiat and Peugeot-Citroën (PSA), who have Europe's cleanest fleets on average and are close to meeting their EU targets. Conversely Suzuki and Mazda, who have been slow to improve efficiency in the past, and consequently have a long way to go to meet EU targets, made big steps forward in 2008.
Jos Dings, director of Transport & Environment said: "The new EU law is already having an impact. If the overall drop in average CO2 emissions was purely related to the financial crisis, fuel prices or changing consumer behaviour, we would have expected to see every company reducing much more equally. But what is actually happening is that carmakers are seeing how far they have to cut and changing their fleets accordingly."
The positive impact of the cars legislation adds to the evidence that legally-binding targets should be extended to vans and lorries.
Dings said : “Clearly regulation is working, and if it works for cars, it will work for vans where progress so far has been even worse. Fuel efficient vans will be good for the environment, and save billions on fuel costs for the many businesses, small and large that depend on them.”
According to media reports, the EU is set to announce legally-binding targets for vans in the coming weeks.