Europe's carmakers not disputing CO2 fines but want more help

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Europe’s carmakers are not looking to challenge fines if they fail to meet the European Union’s 2020 CO2 emissions goals, but want governments to do more to help them hit targets, the head of the main industry lobby group said.

The decline of diesel, long used to boost efficiency, and the slow pace of investment in electric car networks is hampering efforts to meet the EU goals, European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) Secretary General Erik Jonnaert said.

Asked if there was any consensus building within ACEA on the idea of a suspension of penalties for failing to meet the carbon targets, Jonnaert said: “No. This is an idea but it not something which we as a sector are currently pushing for.”

“We rather want to link the challenges and issues we are facing now to meet the 2020 targets... to the discussion on the how the future will look like, instead of challenging the 2020 targets,” Jonnaert said in an interview on Friday.

EU rules in effect from 2020-21 will force new cars to average 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer, with carmakers facing hundreds of millions of euros in potential fines for non-compliance. The current EU-mandated average is 130 g/km.

Peugeot maker PSA Group’s chief executive Carlos Tavares, who chairs ACEA, has called for the EU penalties to be suspended until governments roll out adequate electric car charging networks, saying last month he planned to raise the proposal at a meeting of Brussels-based ACEA on March 7.

Jonnaert, whose group represents 15 global vehicle makers with plants in Europe, told Reuters on the sidelines of an automotive conference in Prague that the 2020 targets were challenging, but the car sector was committed to meeting them.

“What we are questioning in this is there are no targets for countries,” he said. “We are asked to meet targets but the countries are not.”

The European Commission aims to curb greenhouse gases from transport as part of a drive to cut emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

It has proposed a 30 percent reduction in the average CO2 emission of carmakers’ fleets by 2030 compared with 2021 levels. It also wants an interim goal of a 15 percent reduction by 2025 to help ensure automakers start investments early.

ACEA is seeking a reduction of 20 percent overall.

Jonnaert said EU governments needed to help the industry by creating incentives for consumers to use electric cars in addition to building up the network to power them.

He also underlined a warning from PSA’s Tavares that a Chinese buyer could to step in with its own electric vehicle technology if European companies were crippled by fines.

“It is not just a phantom idea,” Jonnaert said, noting the auto industry employs 12.6 million workers in Europe.

There is rising concern about foreign influence over European manufacturers, jobs and technology, which have escalated since China’s Geely snapped up 10 percent of Germany’s Daimler in February.

Reporting by Jason Hovet and Michael Kahn; Editing by Alexander Smith