2008, the year covered by this report, was special in several respects:
- – In December the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament agreed on a regulation3 to reduce fleet-average CO2 emissions of cars sold in Europe to (nominally) 130 g/km by 2015, and to 95 g/km by 2020. This law replaces the failed voluntary commitment (see below). This report is the first to assess the degree to which carmakers are on track to meet the requirements of the new law.
- – Throughout the year, carmakers began introducing a range of fuel- and CO2- saving technologies branded as BlueMotion (Volkswagen), Econetic (Ford), Eco2 (Renault) etc. This occurred in reaction to the impending regulation, record- breaking oil prices, and the introduction of CO2-based car taxes in several Member States.
- – It was also the delivery year for the 1998 voluntary commitment of the European car industry (ACEA) to cut average CO2 emissions from new cars sold in Europe to 140 g/km. By 2006 it was already quite clear that the commitment would not be honoured. In fact, the recognition of that failure was the inspiration for the legally binding targets that followed. Nonetheless, this report will definitively show the extent of the failure of European carmakers to honour their voluntary commitment.4
In the second half of 2008, the global recession took hold, and car sales were reduced as a result. But although the effect was clearly noticeable, it was far from a ‘collapse’. That impression has perhaps been created by exaggerated media coverage of the financial crisis and carmakers eager to receive government support in the form of subsidies. The reality is that EU15 car sales were less than 7% below the ten-year (1999-2008) average, and less than 2% below the twenty-year (1990- 2008) average. Government subsidies for new cars, to support sales, had not yet taken off in 2008. In that sense, 2008 was less unusual, in historical terms, than might have been expected.
The most recent progress made by carmakers is currently relevant in light of a similar follow-up proposal for light commercial vehicles (vans) that the European Commission is expected to announce in late September 2009.