Luxury German cars criticised as climate killers

6th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

6th December 2007, This year's Frankfurt Motor Show highlighted "green themes" such as hybrids, alternative fuels and lean-running engines but German consumers are not showing any indication that they are prepared to end their love affair with high-powered luxury cars.

6th December 2007

 This year's Frankfurt Motor Show highlighted "green themes" such as hybrids, alternative fuels and lean-running engines but German consumers are not showing any indication that they are prepared to end their love affair with high-powered luxury cars.

A study commissioned by the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), a Brussels-based pressure group, found that especially Mercedes and Volkswagen boosted their fleet emission figures last year compared to figures from 2005.

Sales of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) such as the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne have soared in Germany, contrasting with the slump in sales of the fuel-guzzlers in other countries.

Some 54 per cent of German motorists said they would under no circumstances swap their big car for a smaller more economical vehicle that spews less CO2 into the atmosphere, according to a poll conducted by Maritz Research.

Prestige and male ego play a big part. Most of the high-powered Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches seen on the country's roads form part of the benefits package for management in most big firms. Two thirds of all new cars sold in Germany are company cars. It is generally accepted: The bigger and faster the car, the higher the status in the company hierarchy.

Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) recently set the cat among the pigeons by attacking a national icon and calling for a speed limit of 130 kilometres an hour on Germany's motorways, the autobahn, in order to reduce CO2 emissions.

Even Chancellor Angela Merkel intervened in the emotional debate, saying that she was opposed to a speed limit because it would harm the export-orientated German car industry.

However, the proponents of a speed limit have a point. The emission figures listed by manufacturers are compiled at speeds well below those travelled on the autobahn. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo is listed at 358 g/km. But the Auto Bild newspaper found the same SUV consumed a phenomenal 66.7 litres per 100 km when driven flat out at 270 km/h, translating to an emission figure of 1.587 g/km.

The car makers argue that they would like to produce more smaller and economical cars but that demand for them remains small. Sales of the Smart microcar in the Daimler concern have shown some improvement this year but have remained well below expectations in previous years. Volkswagen abandoned production of the super-economical small car, the Lupo, because of poor sales.

The Brussels study showed that cars in the Daimler concern ranked bottom of the list with average emissions of 188 g/km, up 2.8 per cent compared to 2005.

At the same time Japanese car maker Toyota reduced its fleet emissions by five per cent, Honda by 3.8 per cent and PSA Peugeot Citroen by 2.7 per cent.

German cars on average spew 173 grammes of CO2 into the atmosphere, well below the long-term European Union target of reducing CO2 emissions to under 130 g/km by the year 2012. French and Italian car fleet on average have an emission of 144 g/km and Japanese producers 166 g/km.

Pressure groups such as the German Environmental Fund (DUH) are thus calling for a radical cut in tax benefits for company cars.

"It is high time to end the scandalous company car practise of subsidising fuel-guzzlers in Germany with tax benefits," says DUH managing director Juergen Resch.

At the same time Resch appealed to car customers to buy cars with an emission figure of under 140 g/km and not to be blinded by the "green" image which car makers presented at the Frankfurt show.

DPA

Subject: German news, cars, environment

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