Soon Peugeot will tell us exactly what its cars consume in real-world conditions. Will other carmakers follow?

Johannesburg - For decades carmakers have been under pressure from environmentalists and governments to reduce fuel consumption and pollutant emissions, and for decades they’ve quoted figures that are usually unobtainable by car owners in real-world driving conditions.

Whether average fuel efficiency and emissions were achieved in unrealistic test cycles, or if they were just plain cheated as in Volkswagen’s recently uncovered Dieselgate drama, is of little importance going forward.

The buying public just wants to know, simply, how much fuel their new car will really use.

PEUGEOT TO GIVE REAL NUMBERS

French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroën has taken the decision to measure and publicise real-world fuel economy figures as from next year, working together with the non-government Transport & Environment organisation in Europe.

The procedure will measure real-world fuel economy for each of PSA’s main passenger vehicle models with tests on open public roads near Paris in real driving conditions, with segments to include urban, extra-urban and highway driving. The process will be audited by an internationally recognized independent third party.

WHY IT’S SUCH A BRAVE MOVE

It’s a brave move, especially if their results rank poorly against those of competitor brands as they almost certainly will. However, it may eventually spur other brands to follow suit and provide more honest consumption and emission results.

“This innovative initiative is a clear demonstration that a carmaker and independent NGOs can reach agreement for the benefit of customer information,” says PSA Chairman Carlos Tavares. “This will also highlight the advanced technologies that PSA Peugeot Citroën is developing to contribute to fuel efficiency.”

CARMAKERS IN HOT WATER

The discrepancy between real and claimed fuel consumption figures has already landed some local motor companies in hot water.

Last year Ford was forced to withdraw an internet advertisement that misled the South African public about the fuel consumption of its EcoSport crossover vehicle. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling found that Ford’s advert didn’t sufficiently inform motorists that the quoted consumption figures were obtained in controlled-lab conditions and thus weren’t realistically attainable by customers.

In making its finding the ASA referred to earlier similar cases including a ruling in a 2012 case brought by a VW Polo owner, where it stated that “standardised tests are invaluable in ensuring that potential buyers can compare fairly across manufacturer ranges, but the consumption figures claimed must make it clear whether or not they were achieved in ‘the real world’ or under testing (laboratory) conditions.”

A new, more accurate fuel consumption testing standard will not only close the chasm between claimed and real-world performance, but also help to eliminate mistrust between consumers and carmakers.

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