May 06, 2014

Empowering Car Buyers with Actionable Science

7 May 2014 [Santa Rosa, CA] – The Automotive Science Group (ASG) is changing the way we define value in today’s hyper-competitive automotive marketplace. ASG describes their disruptive innovation in a new study released today: Redefining Value in the North American Automotive Marketplace.

On the heels of the National Climate Assessment released yesterday by The White House, ASG’s study is a timely example of “actionable science”, one that helps consumers make informed car purchasing decisions that are ecologically sustainable, socially equitable and economically viable.

The comprehensive study details a principled life-cycle approach to defining an automobile’s value and relative worth, essentially breaking down each vehicle into the sum of its parts, and measuring the natural capital, human capital and the economic efficiencies embodied within each vehicle to derive its real market value, relative to all new vehicles available in its class. Whether it’s a commitment to buy American-made, an environmental prerogative to reduce one’s carbon footprint, or purely an economic choice to save on fuel costs, ASG’s dynamic research findings and value assessments provide an unbiased guide for today’s judicious automotive buyer.

With such striking similarities among today’s new automobiles within each competitive class – like features, near identical passenger and cargo space, comparable styling, even near matching MSRPs – consumers require new tools to better differentiate between competing vehicles. The modeling tools developed by ASG and the value assessments they produce are empowering car buyers to make purchasing decisions that are not only in their best financial interest, but also in the best interest of the environment in which we live and the global community of which we are all an equal part.

ASG’s work is a direct response to consumer demand for environmental, social and economic transparency of the automobiles they buy and the automakers they buy from. And while the scientific methods and detailed models used to assess each vehicle drills down to painstaking detail, consumers do not have to dig deep into ASG’s findings to differentiate between competing vehicles, but can now refer to top selections in each class by looking to vehicles in the marketplace that are distinguished with an ASG logo – a mark of exceptional value. ASG’s top selections are based solely on the indicators and objective methods described in the 2014 Study, now publicly available at:

After assessing over 1,500 model year 2014 automobiles (to trim level detail), the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage and the 2014 Scion iQ were the only automobiles with conventional combustion engines named to the BEST 25 Environmental Performance List (measured in life-cycle gross energy requirement and greenhouse gas emissions). The remaining spots in the BEST 25 were named to Hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs), including the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-max Energi, among others.

On the flip side, the 2014 Toyota Prius c, 2014 Nissan Leaf and 2014 Honda Insight were the only advanced configuration models named to the BEST 25 Economic Performance List (measured in U.S. dollars over initial 5-years of ownership). The remaining spots in the BEST 25 were named to vehicles with conventional combustion engines, including the Chevrolet Spark, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, Kia Rio, among others.

The Mitsubishi Mirage, Scion IQ, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius c and Honda Insight, were the only vehicles to land in both the BEST 25 Environmental Performance and BEST 25 Economic Performance Lists. The Mitsubishi Mirage has the added claim of holding the smallest life-cycle environmental footprint of any conventionally powered model year 2014 automobile available in the North American market.

Only one Crossover SUV made a BEST 25 List: the 2014 Jeep Patriot earned a spot on the Best 25 Economic Performance List. This was a unique finding given the added utility this Crossover SUV offers while also performing among the Best 25 vehicles overall in economic performance.

From a social performance perspective – considering the rights of those charged with vehicle manufacture and assembly – only one vehicle earned top social performance marks in its class while also making both Best 25 Lists – the 2014 Nissan Leaf. The Nissan Leaf has the added claim of holding the smallest life-cycle environmental footprint of any model year 2014 automobile available in the North American market.

The findings of ASG’s Study are not broad statements about technologies, but rather conclusive statements about specific vehicles that implement different technologies. These results show that not all vehicles implement the same technologies as effectively, and therefore the trade-offs between buying conventional vehicles versus alternative vehicles must be viewed on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis. This is where ASG’s Automotive Performance Index and top selections by class add tremendous value to the consumer search process.

To view ASG’s top selections by class and to download the 2014 Study, visit:

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The Automotive Performance Index (API) applies statistical methods to demonstrate each vehicle rating in relative comparison. For example, the vehicle that performs highest in environment performance in a given class obtains a rating score of 100. Each vehicle in its class is then compared relative to the top-performing vehicle with a rating score reflecting the statistical difference in performance outcomes. A score of 91 translates to a 9% environmental performance deficit as compared to the top-performing vehicle.  

Due to the API’s relative vehicle rating method, vehicle class divisions were identified as a critical input - these class divisions are detailed here.

While the Automotive Performance Index is indeed an exhaustive list of vehicles to trim level detail, with each vehicle assessment reporting over 200 unique data outputs (the culmination of thousands of data inputs), ASG has taken additional measures to ease the burden of sorting through all data points and all vehicle assessments. We have developed key performance categories and sorted all vehicles in each class according to Environmental Performance, Social Performance, Economic Performance and All-Around Performance. The vehicle in each class with the best score in each unique category is named the performance award winner (i.e. Best Environmental Performance Award winner). The vehicle in each class that scores highest combined scores in Environmental Performance, Social Performance and Economic Performance is named the ASG Best All-Around Performance Award winner.

One step further, we also name the Best 5 All-Around Performance Award winners in each class to provide consumers with a concise product comparison guide.