• Carmakers should come clean on emissions targets

    T&E's Kerstin Meyer writes in today's Financial Times: To say that carmakers have reversed their stance on emissions is a bit of a stretch (report, June 4). The German car lobby and, to be fair, the industry as a whole have, rather, re-branded their attempts at watering down the European Union's proposed car fuel efficiency targets. The "integrated approach" used to be the buzzword of choice. Now it is "eco-innovations".

    What they propose sounds reasonable: that solar-powered sunroofs and other green-sounding gadgetry should be counted towards the EU’s proposed average CO 2 target for new cars of 130g/km by 2012. While such innovations are a good thing in principle, the targets are based on the fuel efficiency new cars achieve under an official testing procedure that does not currently account for them. Including improvements in non-engine technology in the targets currently under discussion is, therefore, a way of cheating the system.

    In another cunning bit of word play, the car lobby has started talking about a “phase-in” of the targets, rather than a postponement. Whichever word some politicians prefer to hear, the result would be the same. Europe’s drivers, already paying higher fuel prices than they are used to, would have to wait longer for fuel-efficient cars that could be made now and with existing technology.

    Ironically it was the German government that first proposed a target of 120g/km (for 2005) at EU level back in the mid-1990s. If, as the FT reports, it supports this back-door weakening and postponement, it is now softer on a real world climate target than it was more than a decade ago. With fuel costs in Germany heading upwards, one might consider more fuel efficient cars as a potential vote winner. But this has apparently escaped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s notice. Vorsprung durch Technik used to be a popular slogan – is it now an epitaph?