Automakers hopeful for new CO2 limit deadline

GENEVA (Reuters) - Car makers are becoming more optimistic that European authorities will grant them more time to meet proposed limits on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from their vehicles -- a major point of contention between them.

Picture shows people walking through an exhibition hall during the second media day of the 78th Geneva Car Show at the Palexpo in Geneva March 5, 2008. Car makers are becoming more optimistic about European authorities granting them more time to meet proposed limits on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from their vehicles -- a major point of contention between them. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

As part of an effort to cut emissions linked to global warming, the European Commission has drafted tough legislation to reduce CO2 emissions from cars, with steep fines on manufacturers that fail to comply.

The executive body of the European Union wants cars to meet an average limit of 120 grams per km of CO2 by 2012. It wants engine technology to achieve a cut to 130 g/km, with improvements in tires, gears, air conditioning to do the rest.

Automakers want more time -- at least three years -- saying the extra cost of meeting the deadline would hurt the industry.

EU ministers and the European Parliament are debating the proposal, and car makers have become more optimistic about their demand being met, according to the International Automobile Manufacturers Association, OICA.

Xavier Fels, the worldwide body’s vice-chairman, said the parliamentary committees reviewing the proposal had given signs that they were open to industry’s demands.

That impression was reinforced when EU environment ministers met in Brussels on Monday, Fels said.

“We are hopeful,” he told reporters at the Geneva autoshow.

The proposal requires approval by the EU legislature and a qualified majority of the 27 member states to come into force.


In January, a parliamentary report backed the call for more time, saying manufacturers should reduce the average level of C02 emitted to 125 grams per km by 2015.

Although car makers are working on hybrid engines and other ways to reduce emissions, they still face a number of constraints in meeting the 2012 deadline, Fels said.

The length of a car’s product cycle was one of them.

Two-thirds of the vehicles that will be on the road in 2012 are being built at the moment, and they still do not meet the proposed emissions limit, he said. “It is not technically possible (to meet the deadline).”

General Motors Chief Executive Rick Wagoner told reporters on Tuesday the problem of emissions and oil consumption had to be addressed on a global scale.

“If one country goes this way on CO2 and China and India don’t do anything, then nothing is going to happen,” he said.

Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, who heads ACEA, the association of Europe’s automakers, reiterated his resolve to reach an agreement with the Commission.

“We are working with them to arrive at a solution and change the timeline,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

The industry’s latest “green” efforts were on full display at the autoshow.

Porsche presented a hybrid version of the Cayenne SUV, and Mercedes showed off two hybrid models including the S 400. There were also plenty of concept cars, including one by Pininfarina.

Given the growing trend, GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster said he expected all cars eventually to become electric in one way or another.

But Greenpeace spokesman Martin Lloyd was not impressed. He said automakers had failed over 10 years to reduce emissions on a voluntary basis.

“The commission should stick to the 2012 dateline,” he said after doing the rounds at the autoshow. “There needs to be a penalty for (failing to meet it).”

Additional reporting by David Bailey, Andrea Mandala and Marcel Michelson; Editing by Catherine Evans