The European Commission is to unveil proposals that will force car makers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a quarter.
The proposals, to be shown on January 26, will mean that there could be mandatory standards to force car manufacturers to reduce the carbon dioxide output of their products from the present average of 162g/km (grams per kilometre) to 120g/km from 2012.
Manufacturers had signed a voluntary agreement back in 1998 to cut emissions by 25% to 140g/km by 2008, but they have achieved only 13% so far, and the EC now feels that compulsion to make them hit targets is necessary.
Car industry representatives believe that the costs of meeting the targets are too prohibitive. Ivan Hodac, secretary-general of the European Automotive Manufacturers' Association, said 'The costs would be absolutely prohibitive. We are already reducing emissions - we're very aware of how important this is, but will be fighting these proposals.'
The Association also believes it would add £3300 to the price of a car, and that car manufacturers would have to move outside Europe.
However, Stavros Dimas, the European Environment Commissioner behind the proposals, insists that car manufacturers can subsidise mass-market, cheaper cars and pass on the increased costs of developing low-emissions vehicles on to the buyers of cars which pollute more.
Toyota is believed to do this with its hybrid Prius - its true production costs are way beyond its £17,780 asking price, and buyers of luxury models in its range pick up the cost.
The Commission believes the five-year plan will give car makers enough time to develop the technology for low-emissions cars.
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