Consumers are finding it hard to buy fuel-efficient vehicles because car makers are burying CO2 figures for their models online, report claims
Car makers are making the process of searching for a fuel-efficient car “like looking for a needle in a haystack” by burying CO2 figures for their models online, experts and campaigners claimed today.
A report from the government’s Energy Saving Trust, Friends of the Earth Europe and We are Futureproof, said car companies are failing consumers with “confusing” websites.
The online survey involving members of the public found that only half (52% of attempts by consumers to find CO2 figures for specific UK cars were successful. Less than 5% of the 363 people who took part came across the widely recognised A-G energy efficiency label while attempting to look up emissions data.
Mini, Kia, Lexus and Honda were lauded for the ease of use and accessibility of finding CO2 data on their sites, while the worst – ranked by user experience criteria – were Alfa Romeo, Nissan, Smart, and Mercedes-Benz.
The consultancy Ecolane, which carried out the survey, rated the websites on five “design principles” including site navigation; providing CO2 data alongside core data such as performance; how clearly individual models and different “trims” are described; whether comparative emissions information was provided (such as the A-G label); and whether the sites relied on large downloads of PDF files. The report also evaluated how long it took survey respondents to find the data.
The average time taken to find CO2 figures for cars ranged from 74 seconds for Lexus to nearly eight minutes for Alfa Romeo, whose site came bottom of the overall usability table. Other sites coming in for criticism included the low ranking Smart site – “very slow and difficult to find correct model. CO2 not given high importance compared to other car features such as equipment and style” and the Seat site which received the ultimate condemnation “about as easy as dealing with the civil service”. At the opposite end of the spectrum was Peugeot. One tester said: “Very easy to find the emissions data, all sites should be like this.”
Car makers must display a car’s fuel consumption and CO2 data in their showrooms but are not legally required to do so on their sites. Marian Spain, the director of strategy at the Energy Saving Trust, said: “Nowadays most people do initial online research when looking into buying a new car. Our research shows that in many cases, finding out the running costs of cars and their impact on the environment from the car manufacturer website is like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Blake Ludwig, managing director for the We Are Futureproof group, said: “More and more people want to choose greener, more efficient cars, but our study shows that some car makers expect them to spend time hunting around confusing websites for information. Other car markers have got it right, putting the data upfront and easy to find, and we think all companies should have to follow this model.”
A spokesperson for the Society of Motor Industry Manufacturers and Traders said: “Vehicle manufacturers are highly aware of the important role driver information can play in reducing road transport emissions and the significant influence this data has on a person’s purchasing decision.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said the government recognised that people wanted “clear information on the environmental credentials of new cars” and pointed to the requirements to show figures for new cars in showrooms and government’s voluntary scheme for used cars. But they said the government was not looking to mandate car makers to improve CO2 data on their own websites.
Consumers can also find CO2 figures elsewhere online, such as on the government’s Act On CO2 site and the VCA website.