A Green Car Guide visitor recently took Volkswagen to court for publishing that the Golf BlueMotion achieves 88.3mpg, but in real life, under simulated NEDC tests, the car consistently averaged only 61mpg.
Karin Haverson bought her Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion in 2013. She instantly noticed that the real-life fuel economy was falling well short of the official claimed figure – even though her previous car – a Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion – consistently came close to the official mpg figure.
Karin took the car back to Volkswagen and made her views known that she was not happy with the fuel consumption. A lot of discussion went on between the two parties, during which time the car became well and truly ‘run-in’ – initially one of the ‘defences’ from the Volkswagen dealer was that the car wasn’t sufficiently run-in to achieve the stated mpg. Many other reasons for the car not achieving its official published mpg were given, which led Karin to carry out increasingly accurate tests simulating the NEDC test – doing this herself, and then appointing independent engineers.
All the tests showed that the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion achieved only around 70% of the official NEDC combined figure, so Karin decided to take the matter to court.
She based her claim on the fact that her car did not match its description (Sale of Goods Act 1979), in terms of the fuel consumption figures quoted in the manufacturer’s brochure, on its website, and in the dealer’s premises.
Based on the evidence of the expert witness, the judge and the defending garage accepted that the consumption was just as bad as Karin had initially reported (61mpg instead of 88mpg) and so the car used about 40% more fuel than claimed.
It also didn’t improve at all, as had been promised by the dealer when Karin initially took it back. All of this was accepted. However Karin didn’t win the case, the judge’s reasoning being purely a legal one: she judged that the mpg figures given in the manufacturer’s brochure are not part of the description, as those figures are produced by the Vehicle Certification Authority and that neither the manufacturer nor the dealer are responsible for them.
So nobody accepts any responsibility for these figures, even though they are widely used to advertise a car and even to set the road tax level. The judge ignored comparison drives with the Polo BlueMotion (2008), where Karin had shown that the Polo performed as advertised, whereas the Golf (2013) did not.
However, the judge didn’t think that Karin had acted unreasonably and so she did not have to pay any costs. She also stated that if she had won, this would have opened the floodgates to a lot of other claims.
Green Car Guide comment
Green Car Guide has been reporting on real-life economy compared to the official NEDC combined figures for more than 8 years. During that time we have seen the situation get worse – when automotive engineers are set a challenge to achieve a certain economy or emissions target, they will rise to the task, and find technological solutions that will perform well in the short and low-load NEDC test. However when driven out of the official test cycle, the economy of most cars drops significantly.
All car manufacturers will engineer their vehicles in this way, and the more ‘green’ technology that a car has, the larger the discrepancy between official figures and real-life driving.
However in this case Karin has not been driving her car ‘out of the NEDC cycle’, instead she has gone out of her way to replicate NEDC test conditions, so the figure of 61mpg compared to 88mpg is all the more disappointing. In our experience, this is an issue with the majority of cars and manufacturers, and the main issue is that it’s the current NEDC test that is flawed. There are plans to introduce a new test, the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), so we’ll have to wait to see how that changes things – although there are currently delays with its proposed introduction.
However in the meantime we would recommend that you take a look at the following related resources about official v real-life mpg: