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The plans have drawn mixed reactions in different parts of Europe.

Some manufacturers in Germany, where there tends to be a higher proportion of high-performance cars, are outraged and have enlisted the support of their industry commissioner. The French and Italians, who have more fuel-efficient small cars, are generally in favour.

In the UK, where there is a culture of highly creative advertising, the reaction has been more philosophical.

Volkswagen, a manufacturer which has a foot in both the high-performance and economy camps, says: 'It is going to give us opportunities and problems. Space is something we are in constant debate with our advertising agencies about and if we are going to lose 20% of that it is going to be a huge challenge, but at the same time it is probably in tune with the way buyers are starting to think.'

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