Germany's VW, Porsche defend environmental efforts

FRANKFURT Sat Mar 3, 2007 10:31am EST

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's Volkswagen and Porsche have said they are committed to making environmentally-friendly cars, despite a report showing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of newly-registered cars in the country fell only 0.5 percent in 2006.

Chief executives of both firms defended their green credentials in separate interviews released on Saturday, a few days before the Geneva car show which is expected to focus on environmental issues.

VW CEO Martin Winterkorn told Germany's Spiegel magazine that each VW model series would have an eco-version in future.

"We call it Blue Motion. We've begun with the Passat and the Polo. We'll continue with the Golf," he said in an interview due to be published on Monday.

The VW Polo 1.4 TDI PD Blue Motion is ranked the world's ninth-most environmentally sound car by Swiss Transport Club VCS, based on emissions of CO2, pollutants and noise.

The greenest model is judged to be the Honda Civic 1.3i-DSI Hybrid, with the top eight in the Club's list occupied by Japanese or French carmakers.

Automakers in Germany -- where drivers are known for their love of powerful cars -- do not offer a single full such hybrid, which combine electric motors and batteries with standard combustion engines to cut fuel consumption.

Winterkorn said VW's Audi brand had been too early to market with its Audi duo hybrid series in the 1990s. "At that time the market was obviously not yet ripe. We only sold a few hundred of them," he said.

Volkswagen had the first of a new set of hybrid cars undergoing tests now and the first models should be on the market next year, he added.

He defended VW's 12-cylinder diesel Bugatti sports car, which he said would use an average 11.9 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers when it comes onto the market. That compares with 4.6 liters per 100 kilometers for the Honda Civic Hybrid.

"Is that a catastrophe? Should we all drive Trabis in future?" he asked, referring to the two-cylinder Trabant cars which were a symbol of communist East Germany.

Asked about European Union proposals to cut CO2 emissions, Winterkorn said he would favor limits set by vehicle class rather than by manufacturer. "We could live with that," he said.

The EU wants to cut CO2 emissions for new passenger cars to a maximum of 120 grammes per kilometer by 2012, down from an average level of 186 grammes in 2004. European carmakers say the proposed measures would damage the economy.

Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking also defended his company's green record. "We are not waste merchants," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in an interview released before publication on Sunday. "None of my customers has to apologize for driving a Porsche," he said.

The sports car firm planned to start selling a hybrid version of its Cayenne offroader by the end of the decade, he said. This would use less than 9 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers, he said, compared with 12.9 liters for the current version.

Wiedeking said the EU's emission-cutting proposals would put top-end carmakers such as Porsche out of business if they were applied uniformly to all automakers, forcing German carmakers to produce only small cars at best. "We already once had Trabi-dominance in one part of Germany. Socialism would then find a joyful resurrection on our street," he said.

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