German motor companies hit back today at EU plans to fine them if they fail to comply with strict limits on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on new cars.
Stavros Dimas, the EU environment commissioner, wants to cap CO2 emissions from cars at 120 grams a kilometre by 2012. He has warned European carmakers that they will face sanctions if they fail to meet this target.
The industry's chief executives are calling for greater flexibility as well as a delayed timetable for meeting the target. German car groups claim Mr Dimas's plans could destroy their industry.
The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, which has a voluntary target of cutting emissions to 140 grams by 2012, wants the new EU limit to apply from 2015.
But its cause has been damaged by a report last week from T&E, a sustainable transport campaign group, showing the industry's progress in promoting "greener" cars has ground to a halt, with emissions down marginally to 161 grams on average last year. This makes the self-imposed 140 grams target unfeasible.
On Monday Wendelin Wiedeking, Porsche's chief executive, said Mr Dimas's plans were "wholly alien" and breached the laws of physics. Porsche's luxury sports cars emit more than 300 grams of CO2 a kilometre on average. The firm owns 31% of Volkswagen, which tonight launched five new BlueMotion eco-friendly models that meet the 120 grams target.
"Anybody demanding inflexible targets for all is attacking the German car industry," Mr Wiedeking told the German business daily Handelsblatt.
Mr Dimas, meanwhile, insisted his targets were realistic.