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Countdown to WLTP: the impact of optional extras

Individual options are unlikely to increase company car drivers’ tax liabilities under the new WLTP regime, but commonly selected combinations of options will have emissions and tax implications.

This is likely to accelerate manufacturer initiatives to streamline their vehicle ranges and option packages, according to automotive pricing specialists Autovista Group.

“Under the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure regime, worst and best-case cars need to be tested with their optional equipment fitted to present a clear view on more achievable driving emissions and fuel consumption for each level of specification that is offered,” Samuel Keates, Director of Specifications at Autovista Group, explained.

The company’s analysis found that most options in isolation do not have a major effect on CO2 emissions, rarely accounting for more than 1g/km of additional CO2. However, a combination of options can add up to make a difference to the emissions profile of a car and, in turn, its tax liability.

Autovista examined the impact of options on a specific variant of a premium-brand D-segment model that is a popular choice with fleet buyers. Depending on body style and drivetrain, the model variant has CO2 emissions ranging from 152-166g/km as measured by the WLTP test.

  • Fitting a tow bar can increase CO2 emissions by 1-2g/km because of the impact on weight and aerodynamics.
  • A panoramic roof generates a similar effect.
  • An increase in wheel size impacts the weight and rolling resistance of the car; fitting 18” wheels instead of 17” wheels adds about 2g/km more in CO2 emissions.
  • Fitting run-flat tyres as an option instead of the standard tyre repair kit increases emissions by about 1g/km.
  • The different WLTP testing rules can also make it confusing for consumers as, depending on what the buyer adds at the dealership, the optional equipment may change the emissions figures and tax liabilities of the car. Even optional extras such as sport suspension or audio systems could increase a vehicle’s weight and alter its ride, therefore adding to emissions.

    Given the additional challenges in gaining WLTP type approval for all model variants, the additional complexity for consumers, and the higher tax liabilities themselves, many OEMS are consolidating their optional equipment offerings.

    “The WLTP test does not provide for any testing of ‘dealer-fit’ accessories and this may incentivise manufacturers to move increasingly to dealer-fit only options – especially those which can be easy to retrofit such as tow bars,” Samuel Keates added. “While this adds to logistics and manufacturing complexity, avoiding the CO2 uplift from these options could save a significant amount in tax on an individual vehicle and lead to greater sales in particularly competitive segments.”