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Hyundai-Kia, Honda, Toyota Are America's Greenest Automakers, But All Are Improving

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Average emissions from light-duty vehicles, 1998-2013 (via the Union of Concerned Scientists)

Average emissions from light-duty vehicles, 1998-2013 (via the Union of Concerned Scientists)

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A new study of America's top eight automakers finds Asian brands to be the greenest of the bunch, while Detroit brands earn the lowest marks. However, all eight companies have shown dramatic improvement, over the past decade and a half.

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The rankings come from the Union of Concerned Scientists, which describes itself as an alliance of over 400,000 "parents and businesspeople, biologists and physicists, teachers and students. Our members understand that scientific analysis — not political calculations or corporate hype — should guide our efforts to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices."

Automakers were evaluated on the basis of their fleets -- specifically, on their vehicles' fuel efficiency, their output of smog-forming emissions, and their output of global warming emissions. On all three counts, Hyundai-Kia bested its rivals. According to UCS, Hyundai-Kia's fleet "emits around 15 percent less global warming pollution — and 13 percent less smog-forming pollution — than the national average".

Honda fared well in the study, too, coming in a fairly close second. However, UCS points out that the weak spot in Honda's fleet is its top seller, the Honda Accord, which boasts underwhelming eco-credentials compared to other midsize vehicles.

Detroit brands came in at the bottom of the UCS list, with Ford at #6, GM at #7, and Chrysler at #8. (In fairness, though, Ford earned kudos for its growing hybrid fleet and its switch to smaller, turbo-powered combustion engines.)

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But despite disappointing scores from the Big Three, UCS points out that all eight automakers -- including Toyota (#3), Nissan (#4), and Volkswagen (#5) -- have made substantial improvement over the past decade and a half:

"For the first time ever, all eight major automakers reduced their average global warming emissions compared to their respective 1998 fleet average, the model year examined in our first report. The average new vehicle is emitting around 20 percent less global warming pollution and nearly 87 percent less smog-forming tailpipe emissions."

You can download a PDF of the full UCS report by clicking here.

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