US vehicle emissions still significantly higher than Europe or Japan
The firm's study of the US light vehicle market in the first quarter of 2010 reveals that the market's average CO2 is 268.5g/km. This drops to 255.6g/km when pick-up trucks, full size vans and small commercial vehicles are excluded to reflect like-for-like comparison with car markets in other global regions. This figure compares very unfavourably to Japan (130.8g/km) and Europe's five biggest markets, which average 140.3g/km.
All markets have improved marginally when compared to the full-year average in 2009; Japan is down 0.4g/km, the USA is down 1.0g/km and Europe has improved most significantly with a 4.3g/km reduction year-to-date.
'It is still clear that American consumers need to undergo a fundamental re-think of their vehicle buying preferences, but the past period of economic upheaval is likely to have meant that other domestic issues have taken consumer's priority,' said David Mitchell, president of JATO Americas. 'The blame can't just lie with consumers though; the OEM product offering in the US still does little to promote alternatives to the large engine capacity gasoline vehicles which still dominate the market.'
A key factor in this is the cost of fuel. Compared to other global markets, this still remains comparatively low in the US, thereby removing one of the most significant drivers for change. 33.9% of vehicles sold in the US still fall within a 15-20 mpg consumption bracket, compared with only 0.28% in Europe and 0.63% in Japan.
European average CO2 emissions have also reduced most significantly thanks to the rising popularity of diesel; a fuel which has 48.9% of the market share. Japan has a tiny diesel share of only 0.11%, but its highly congested roads make very small and economical gasoline cars a popular choice. Currently, the USA market is dominated by gasoline, which has 81.9% market share, with only 1.7% being diesel.
'An interesting point to note, is that American consumers have been significantly more inclined to adopt hybrid technology than the Europeans,' said Mr Mitchell. 'Hybrids have 2.3% market share in the US, while in Europe it is still only 0.5%. Not surprisingly, Japan leads the way with 10.1% of market share going to hybrids.'
JATO says that these regional variances can in part be put down to varying CO2-based taxation regimes that reward or penalise certain technologies, while Japan's high-technology driven economy will automatically favour new technologies such as hybrid and electric vehicles. Additionally, European vehicle "scrappage" schemes have contributed significantly to the introduction into circulation of a huge number of low-polluting, fuel-efficient small cars – something that "cash for clunkers" didn't do to the same effect in the US.