BRUSSELS/PARIS German lobbying has halted a deal to enforce stricter rules on carbon dioxide emissions for all new cars in the European Union from 2020, EU sources said on Thursday.
The compromise deal was hammered out late on Monday to enforce a limit of 95 grams per kilometer (g/km) as an average across the EU fleet by 2020.
It had the backing of most member states, EU sources said, but Germany, home to premium carmakers, such as Daimler and BMW, was not happy and has campaigned aggressively against the plan.
EU ambassadors were expected to take a vote on Thursday, but failed to do so. The sources said the vote was delayed by lobbying as Germany played for time.
Senior German officials contacted EU counterparts and "asked that the decision should not be taken immediately," a European diplomatic source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source expected Germany to seek a delay until after elections in September.
"As far as I'm aware there is no question of changing the content of the agreement," the source said, although other EU sources said Germany was looking for allies to overturn the deal, rather than to simply delay it.
A spokeswoman for Ireland, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said several delegations had asked for more time to study the agreement.
She added that Lithuania, which takes over the EU presidency from July 1, would oversee further talks.
Germany has been lobbying for weeks to shelter its premium car sector from the tighter regulations by campaigning for loopholes, known as supercredits.
These allow manufacturers to carry on producing more polluting vehicles provided they also make some very low emissions vehicles, such as electric cars.
The compromise agreement allows for some flexibility, but less than Germany had hoped for.
There was no immediate comment on the delay from Germany, which has defended its lobbying, saying its car industry is a major source of jobs.
Campaigners have voiced outrage at the tactics, saying it was bad news for consumers, who risk missing out on the savings linked to lower-emission, more fuel efficient cars, as well as being bad for climate policy.
Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said it was "a clear case of the concerns of a handful of companies taking precedence over consumers' interests".
While representatives of the German car industry have said they were unhappy with the compromise deal, other manufacturers were dismayed by the delay.
"As a company committed to meaningful CO2 emission reductions through advanced technology, Ford is disappointed," Ford Motor Co said in a statement. "We will now have to regroup within the industry to determine the next steps."
($1 = 0.7637 euros)
(Additional reporting by Christiaan Hetzner in Frankfurt; Editing by Jeff Coelho and Elaine Hardcastle)