Joint-venture automakers in China struggle to meet emission standards

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On World Car-Free Day earlier this year, Greenpeace released a report titled “Zero Carbon Countdown: Comparison of major automakers’ carbon emission levels and compliance in China, the EU and the USA”. The report gathered the most recent statistics on the carbon emissions of Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai-Kia, and Honda cars in China, the United States, and the EU. The data reveals that the manufacturers’ vehicles made in China had a greater chance of failing to hit carbon emission standards than in the EU and the United States.

Based on indicators such as sales volume, market coverage and brand influence, the report provides an overview of CO2 emission standards and regulations for passenger vehicles (PVs) in the EU, China and the USA from 2015 to 2030 and compares CO2 regulations for PVs among the three regions. At the same time, the report examines the development of CO2 regulations for PVs in the three markets and discusses their impact on the carbon emission performance of automakers.

Data shows that between 2016 and 2020, each of the four companies failed to meet carbon emission standards in China at least twice. Toyota failed five times, Honda and Hyundai-Kia each failed three times, and Volkswagen failed twice. The report also states that among the nine joint ventures operated by the companies in China, seven of them met the country’s average fuel consumption standards for passenger cars in 2016, but none met the standards for 2020. This indicates that automakers are struggling to hit China’s tightening fuel efficiency standards.

In addition, between 2017 and 2019, the annual average level of carbon emissions produced by cars made by the four major joint-venture companies in China was higher than their emissions in the EU and the United States. Among them, the carbon emissions from Toyota’s cars were 30 percent higher than its vehicles produced in the EU, and on average, the carbon emissions of Honda’s cars came in at 20 percent higher than in the United States.

Regarding the different emissions data in the three regions, the report highlights three reasons. First, China lacks sufficient carbon emission regulations and corresponding economic penalties for passenger vehicles, which makes it difficult to enforce effective emission standards on automakers. Second, the imbalance of fuel efficiency technologies adopted by automakers in different markets has led to uneven carbon emissions output in different markets. Third, in recent years, sales of SUV models have grown rapidly worldwide, with China and the United States representing the most important markets. Due to their relatively high carbon emissions, the vehicles have become a major contributory factor in the failure by carmarkers to reach fuel consumption standards.

The report recommends that to support global efforts to fight climate change, car manufacturers should abide by carbon emission standards in all markets. For now, multinational automakers should adopt energy-saving and consumption-reducing technologies for the global market in a balanced manner, further strengthening their efforts to reduce carbon emissions in areas with lower emission standards and speeding up the phasing-out of fuel-burning vehicles. In addition, car manufacturers should focus on promoting more energy-efficient vehicles.

For policymakers in the auto industry, the report suggests that governments worldwide should tighten emission standards for passenger vehicles and ensure that they are backed up with effective enforcement measures. Higher penalties should be considered if necessary. Finally, the government should encourage the public to choose low-emission modes of transport by improving public transport infrastructure and offering subsidies.

Original Report (English):