US cars "almost twice as polluting" as European and Japanese models

American consumers need to undergo a "fundamental rethink" of their vehicle-buying preferences, an industry analyst has warned, citing new research that shows that the US car market is still almost twice as polluting as Europe and Japan.

JATO Dynamics, which analyzed the carbon dioxide output of US vehicles in the first quarter of 2010, found that US cars emit an average of 255.6g per kilometer driven, a figure significantly higher than in other global markets.

Cars in Europe’s five biggest markets, for instance, emit 140.3g per kilometer and cars in Japan manage 130.8g per kilometer.

David Mitchell, head of JATO’s Americas practice, said that while consumers need to change their buying preferences, the current economic situation means that the environment may not be the first thing on their minds.

However, he also cautions that the consumer isn’t wholly to blame, saying that the product offerings in the region have done little to promote alternatives to the gas-guzzling vehicles that dominate the market.

The substantially lower cost of fuel in the US is one of the key factors behind the continued popularity of gas-guzzlers and a key factor in keeping American key emissions high - according to JATO, 33.9 percent of vehicles sold in the US still fall within a 15-20 mpg (15.68 l/100km - 11.76 l/100km) consumption bracket, compared with only 0.28 percent in Europe and 0.63 percent in Japan.

By comparison, the current World Car of the Year the Volkswagen Polo manages up to 3.8l/100km or 61 mpg.

The fast takeup of new technology such as hybrid vehicles in Japan has also been helpful, said the research, along with the success of the European scrappage schemes in getting polluting older vehicles off the road, something that the US program has been less successful at achieving.