After almost three years, the Brazilian programme of vehicular labelling focusing on fuel consumption has begun at last.

The first proposal was made during 2006, always on a voluntary adherence basis.

Categories were defined as subcompact, compact, medium size, large, sports cars, off-road and pick-up.

The programme does not impose any fuel mileage goals, yet it counts on consumer pressure to push automakers into improving engine efficiciency.

Brazil was the only large market country where most OEMs did not bother to state fuel consumption. They said they would be subject to court action about test figures versus those achieved in the real world.

To avoid thus, the labels stress that data is for reference only, since it was obtained in a laboratory.

Along with all importers (with the honourable exception of Kia), locally-produced brands Citroën, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault and Toyota have all refused to comply with the initiative.

Fuel economy in kilometres per litre will be publicised every October. Some automakers are already rethinking their approach and may begin voluntarily complying soon.

The first result involving Chevrolet, Fiat, Honda, Kia and Volkswagen graded vehicles from best (A) to worst (E): VW Gol (1.0), Honda Fit (1.4 M/T), Fiat Mille (1.0), Kia Picanto (1.0) and VW Polo BlueMotion (1.6) were the winners. Badly ranked with an E were the Fiat Palio (1.4 and 1.8), Idea (1.4) and Siena (1.8). Volkswagen did better and Chevrolet rated an intermediate (C).

The labels adopted in Brazil are similar to Ireland's (in that case majoring on CO2 output rather than fuel economy).

Similar labels are used to rate domestic appliances for energy efficiency in the EU. Brazil began labelling appliances in the late 1980s.

Fernando Calmon