Report on Motoring 2016

The emissions scandal and trust in manufacturers

4.3 The emissions scandal and trust in manufacturers

In September 2015, government investigators in the United States found that Volkswagen had installed a ‘defeat device’ in certain diesel models, a type of software that could detect when the vehicle was undergoing a standard emissions test and temporarily reduce emission levels so as to meet the performance standard required by law26.

As a result, thousands of cars which breached US emissions regulations are thought to have been sold.

Subsequently, it has emerged that the practice was also employed by VW in Europe, while other manufacturers have admitted that fuel-efficiency statistics can be misleading because of the inadequacies of the standard test that all manufacturers are required to use27.

The 2016 Report on Motoring found that more than a third of drivers (35%) say their trust in the car manufacturing industry as a whole has fallen over the past 12 months against just 12% who say it has increased. However, motorists appear to have more faith in the company which makes their current vehicle: only 9% say their trust in the manufacturer of the car they own at the moment has declined, compared with 26% who report it has gone up.


35% of drivers say their trust in the car manufacturing industry as a whole has fallen over the past 12 months

43% of car owners who have lost trust in their current car's manufacturer no longer believe their emissions claims


Unsurprisingly, Volkswagen owners are more likely to have lost faith – almost a third (29%) said their trust levels were down. The most common reason given by owners who had lost trust in their current car’s manufacturer is that they no longer believe their emissions claims (43% say this), while a quarter (25%) no longer think their carmaker’s claims on fuel efficiency are credible.

Another 25% said their diminished trust was due to their car’s general quality not meeting their expectations, while one in five (20%) were unhappy that their vehicle had been recalled as a result of manufacturing faults.

Half of motorists (49%) are not sure whether they will stick with their current manufacturer when they next buy a car, but a third (30%) say they will switch brand. Only a fifth (20%) say they will definitely stick with their existing producer.

Of the 41% of motorists who say they will not buy a diesel as their next car, only 7% say this is because of the Volkswagen emissions scandal while 8% are deterred by the Government’s plans to establish Clean Air Zones. Pollution (35%) and expected maintenance costs (24%) are far greater concerns.

Manufacturers have been aware for many years that EU standard emissions and fuel economy tests, upon which they are required to base figures quoted in their literature, are unrepresentative of real-world driving.


Motorists' views on their vehicle manufacturer

25% of drivers say their diminished trust was due to their car's general quality not meeting their expectations

20% of motorists say they were unhappy that their vehicle had been recalled as a result of manufacturing faults

30% of motorists say they are unlikely to switch brand when they next purchase

20% of drivers say they are likely to stick with their existing producer


The emissions scandal has encouraged governments, legislators and the industry to accelerate the process of introducing better tests that are truly representative of a vehicle’s performance in the real world.

The findings from this year’s Report on Motoring suggest that for motorists, the new tests cannot come too soon and are an essential step towards the re-establishment of trust in motor manufacturers.


49% of drivers say they are not sure whether they will stick with their current manufacturer when they next buy a car

41% of motorists say their are unlikely to buy a diesel as their next car

The emissions scandal has encouraged governments, legislators and the industry to accelerate the process of introducing better tests that are truly representative of a vehicle's performance in the real world