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REUTERS AUTO SUMMITS: EC CO2 rule compliance seen costly

By just-auto.com editorial team | 22 November 2007

EU rules to cut CO2 emissions drew a range of views from industry figures at this week's Reuters Autos Summit, but all said it would be costly to a sector already hit by pricier raw materials, a strong euro and nervous consumers.

Standard & Poor's director of corporate ratings, Maria Bissinger, said nearly all the companies she followed had a stable or positive outlook, but uncertainty on the CO2 issue was a long-term problem for the industry.

She noted data from German car industry association VDA suggested the cost of cutting CO2 emissions to 120g/km by 2012, as demanded by the European Commission, would be about EUR3,000 a car. That's on top of EUR2,000 in extra costs since 2005 as a result of other EU regulations, from parts design deregulation, to air conditioning rules, initial CO2 limits and pedestrian protection.

VDA members include car makers such as Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Volkswagen unit Audi, all of which make relatively heavy cars with big engines and high emissions and are likely to find compliance costs higher than makers of smaller cars like PSA Peugeot Citroen and Fiat, Reuters noted.

The news agency also noted that, though the European car industry organisation ACEA has said the 120g/km level should be seen as an average for the entire industry, not an average per car maker, the industry does not always speak with one voice.

France's CCFA association, which champions its nation's makers of relatively low emitting cars, recently said it was not in favour of special treatment for heavier cars.

At the Frankfurt motor show in September, the chief executives of all the ACEA companies held a joint news conference in which they asked the European Commission for realistic targets and more time but, again, there are dissenters.

Valeo chairman and chief executive Thierry Morin told the summit in Frankfurt that the commission had to be very strict and that 120g by 2012 was too little and too late.

"That is five years from now; we have to do something quick to help the planet," he said.

Valeo's products include technology that helps cut emissions such as braking systems that store energy wasted during braking and micro-hybrids.

Morin agreed the costs were an issue, and that a family would probably prefer to spend spare cash on other options, such as leather upholstery, before lower carbon emissions.

"It has to be made mandatory; we would not have bought safety belts if they had not been made compulsory," he said.

Stefan Wolf, CEO of German car parts group ElringKlinger, told Reuters the car industry had to act on emissions but was taking too much heat.

"I am convinced we have to do something. I also think that the automobile industry is too much in focus, because only 12% of global CO2 emissions come from cars and the automotive industry, and that is why I think we should also look at other areas and other sectors that contribute much more," he said.

Even luxury sports carmakers are on the case. Ferrari general manager Amedeo Felisa said the company wanted to cut CO2 emissions from 400g/km to 280-300 by 2012.

Lamborghini chief Stefan Winkelmann said his engineers were also working on the problem.

He said the power/weight ratio was one area the sports car maker might improve, trying lighter materials for the body and chassis but, with Lamborghini selling just 2,000 cars a year, that owners largely drove at weekends, the impact was "close to zero".