June 5, 2019 [Santa Rosa, CA] – The Automotive Science Group (ASG) released findings today from its annual Automotive Performance Index (API) Study, findings that counter recent headlines on the state of the industry. As industry analysts talk of U.S. sales forecasting downward, with shuttered U.S. manufacturing plants grabbing headlines, and with vehicle import tariffs hanging in the balance, the automotive industry looks to be in dire straights.
“Not so much,” according to ASG founder and Managing Director Colby Self. “We’re seeing the most exciting transition in the automotive landscape since the the first mass produced vehicles rolled off the assembly line in the early 20th century. We’re seeing a disruption in the market that is changing the competitive landscape - automakers are being pressed for measurable innovation, not just shamelessly repackaging and rebranding the same technologies decade after decade. The future is bright for automakers that break free from groupthink tendencies and push their limits on technical innovation, as we are seeing from the leading automakers in 2019.”
With more than a dozen car models being cut from U.S. production since last year, these tired models simply failed to evolve with changing consumer preferences, with the nix being the best and most welcomed recourse. The outgoing Ford Taurus for example, delivers an appalling EPA estimated 21 MPG combined (city/hwy) for model year 2019, up from 20 MPG combined in the year 2000. With a 1 MPG improvement in 19 years, Ford not only managed to add 525 pounds to its curb weight, but they also lost 2 cubic feet of passenger volume - clearly a failed product evolution leading to Ford ceasing production in March. The Chevrolet Impala didn’t fair much better rising from 21 MPG to 25 MPG over the course of nearly two decades.
But surprisingly Ford and GM’s failures also extend into the crossover and SUV segments in 2019, the segments they are said to be focusing on as they depart from their traditional car models. ASG found their models lagging behind in the 2019 API, without a single model earning any notable distinction. Even the all-new Chevrolet Blazer lags with its 24 MPG combined, falling far short of innovation in the segment - just look to the RAV4 Hybrid that hits 40 MPG combined to see the measurable difference.
Who then is leading the way in 2019, and what is reason for ASG’s market enthusiasm? ASG’S annual study found 37 electrified models - 15 full battery electric vehicles and 22 plug-in hybrid vehicles - up from just 8 production models in 2018. 2019 marks a momentous turning point where the most advanced powertrains are not only available to mainstream buyers, but according to ASG’s comparative analysis, some of these models also bridge exceptional environmental performance with industry leading economic performance and best all-around life-cycle value.
ASG assessed 1,640 model year 2019 car, crossover, SUV and Minivan variants, and found Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai and FCA models leading the 2019 API rankings. Key to ASG’s 2019 findings is the technological tradeoffs between vehicle electrification and light-weighting strategies to maximize life-cycle environmental and economic performance. It comes as no surprise in ASG’s study that the effective use of both strategies is the winning formula.
The Toyota Prius Prime again tops the 2019 API, a plug-in hybrid featuring 133 MPG-e with a 25-mile all-electric capability. According to ASG, the Prius Prime has a life-cycle carbon footprint that is 48% less than the first generation Prius, which hit the North American market in 2000. That first model achieved an impressive 41 MPG combined, nearly twice the MPG of the outgoing 2019 Taurus. Toyota continues to innovate, and is the reason why Toyota has six models topping the 2019 API.
Likewise, Mitsubishi continues to differentiate itself with its synergistic model lineup that leverages light-weight vehicle architectures and fuel efficient powertrains - a combination that collectively reduces operating costs and life-cycle carbon emissions. Mitsubishi’s commitment to these fundamental engineering principles, while delivering compelling vehicles at retail prices that beat the competition, proves to be a winning combination. By adding a Plug-in powertrain to the Outlander SUV, with its 22-mile all-electric range and 74 MPG-e combined, Mitsubishi reveals a smart path, topping ASG’s brand rankings again in 2019.
Another bright spot is found in the Chrysler Pacifica which initially began production in 2003, with an EPA estimated 17 MPG combined. Fast forward through its discontinuation in 2007 and recent revival with a Hybrid variant that can do 32-miles all electric with an EPA estimated 84 MPG-e, clearly FCA has keyed in to innovation. The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is unrivaled in the minivan segment, topping the API for the third consecutive year.
Both Hyundai and Kia bring newer models to fore with the Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Niro, both models coming in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric variants. Both the Ioniq Plug-in and Niro Plug-in nearly swept the competition in their competitive sets, providing best all-around performance and best environmental performance in the full-size car and compact crossover segments. The Ioniq Hybrid swooped in to take the best economic performance in class, just inching out it’s plug-in counterpart.
To access the 2019 API Study findings and list of top selections and analysis, please visit https://www.automotivescience.com/pages/2019-study
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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.