Spanish car dealers' federation Faconauto has criticised Barcelona's decision to introduce a new speed limit to help improve air quality and tackle climate change in Spain's second-largest city.

In a statement, Faconauto characterised the move as a "frontal attack" on the automobile industry and said it won't help lower CO2 emissions. Instead, it said, the government should improve and extend the Prever national scrapping programme to remove older 'gas-guzzling' cars from the country's roads.

Barcelona's Generalitat government will introduce the new limit in the autumn, forcing drivers in the Zona 1 freeway system (which borders the city) to cut their maximum speed to 80km/hour (roughly 50mph) from 90-120km/hour (circa. 55-75mph) before.

"If you were able to drive at 120km/h before, now you won't," said a Generalitat spokesman, adding that the measure is one of 73 proposals to help remove CO2 and nitrogen dioxide pollutants from the city's skies.

As part of that effort, the government wants to reduce CO2 emissions 25% by 2010.

But Faconauto said the proposal won't help cut greenhouse gases. Instead, it will worsen traffic conditions and increase the chance of accidents.

"The optimum emission levels of a car or truck come when they are at 90-100km/hour," Faconauto said, adding that fourth and fifth gear driving reduces more emissions than second or third-gear driving.

Stricter speed limits can clog up traffic, Faconauto added, as it would take longer for cars to clear a jam.

To this, the Generalitat spokesman countered: "Our studies show that this is the best way to reduce emissions and traffic congestion in the area."

Faconauto countered the best way to do this is by extending and streamlining Prever, which expires next January. The scheme rewards drivers who trade-in their old clunkers with EUR720 off new or nearly-new cars' price tags.

"We need a more ambitious programme that would reach all segments including passenger cars, heavy industrial vehicles and buses," Faconauto noted.

According to industry sources, 100 new cars now emit the same pollutants as one from the 1970s.
Faconauto hopes the government will meet its requests but that is still "very much up in the air," a spokeswoman for the Madrid-based lobby told just-auto.

Ivan Castano