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Honda wins green-automaker award

October 7, 2010 |  9:52 am

The Union of Concerned Scientists has awarded American Honda Motor Co. its fifth consecutive “Greenest Automaker” title for efforts to reduce carbon emissions from cars.

CrzHonda, which produces a natural-gas-powered Civic and several hybrid vehicles, narrowly beat out Toyota Motor Sales USA and Hyundai Motor America. Its fleet is 14% cleaner than that of the top eight manufacturers combined.

“Toyota was poised to take the lead but stalled in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Meanwhile, Hyundai’s fleet saw dramatic  efficiency improvements, pushing the company into a title-contender spot,” said Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer in the group's Clean Vehicle Program.

The nonprofit scientists group ranked the automakers based on average per-mile smog pollution and global-warming emissions of the entire fleet of vehicles sold. The organization scores each of the top eight automakers -– making up about 92% of U.S. auto sales.

Volkswagen Group of America finished fourth, followed by Nissan North America Inc., Ford Motor Co. , General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group.

Honda was pleased with the award. "We continue to accelerate our efforts to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions that contribute to global climate change," said John Mendel, Honda’s executive vice president.

But for Honda to continue its reign, Kliesch said, it will need stronger sales of efficient hybrids and better environmental performance from its conventional vehicles.

“Toyota also will need to make fleet-wide improvements to stay in contention," he said. "Without its successful Prius hybrid, the company would have placed fourth this year instead of second.”

Chrysler has finished last in four of the five rankings by the scientists group primarily because its environmental improvements only come about because of regulator requirements, Kliesch said.  “When it comes to environmental performance, Chrysler managers need to get their heads in the game,” he said.

But all of the automakers have improved their performance since the group first ranked them, starting with model year 1998, and the gap between the worst and best automakers has narrowed. State and federal emissions laws, along with a growing market for clean cars, are prodding automakers to produce cleaner vehicles, Kliesch said.

-- Jerry Hirsch

Photo: Honda's CRZ hybrid sports car. Credit: Don Kelsen, Los Angeles Times