German car manufacturer bosses weighed in heavily to the debate on EU CO2 limits for passenger cars at the weekend, with a letter to the European Commission warning of massive job losses if it imposes CO2 limits on passenger cars.

According to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, the legislation would have severe repercussions on the automotive and supplier industry. The letter was signed by von Norbert Reithofer (BMW ), Bernhard Mattes (Ford Motor ), Hans Demant (Opel General Motors), Martin Winterkorn (Volkswagen) and Dieter Zetsche (DaimlerChrysler).

In the letter the car bosses criticized EU plans calling for limits on CO2 emission of 120g/km by 2012 by saying that governments would need to intervene massively to avoid the collapse of the whole European, and particularly the German automotive industry. The move would considerably weaken the competitiveness of Germany as a production location, said the letter, according to dpa-AFX news.

There is considerable debate in Germany and at the EU with industry representatives resisting the measures. German trade minister, Michael Glos, warned that tens of thousands of German automotive jobs would be lost. However the tide appears to be against the car manufacturers this time. German environment minister, Sigmar Cabrielm and transport minister, Wolfgang Tiefensee, are both in favour of CO2 limits, particularly since the industry is nowhere near meeting its voluntary target of 140g/km CO2 emissions by 2008. The figure currently stands at around 160g/km.

Acea, the European vehicle manufacturers association, has been lobbying European Commissioners for an ‘integrated approach’ to reducing CO2, rather than imposed limits.

By an ‘integrated approach, ACEA means that the fuel industry (by introducing a wider variety of fuels), policy makers (through infrastructure adjustments and taxation, and consumers (through their driving style), should work together to achieve CO2 reduction.

An announcement on CO2 limits was expected last Wednesday, but was delayed when it emerged that there was considerable resistance to the Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas’s proposals, from Industry Commissioner, Günter Verheugen, who was due to present a framework for European automotive industry policy at the same time.

Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, is seeking a consensus within his Commission and, according to the Guardian, has said that proposals for binding legislation to enforce the 120g target by 2012 would be presented “very soon” – possibly tomorrow.

But Dimas’s proposals to legislate on engine technology alone will now be complemented by other measures such as greater use of biofuels.