Brussels: Car makers are cutting their fleets` carbon dioxide emissions faster than expected and are likely to reach European Union targets ahead of time, environmental activists said today.
Cars sold in the EU in 2009 on average emitted 5.1 percent less C02 than cars sold in 2008, according to a study by Transportation and Environment, based on EU data.
That is the steepest yearly reduction in emissions since the EU started collecting data 10 years ago, said Dudley Curtis, a spokesman for Transportation & Environment.
Of the world`s 14 largest auto makers, Japan`s Toyota Motor Corp and Suzuki Motor Corp cut their emissions at the fasted rate in 2009, slashing 10 per cent and 9.1 percent off year-earlier levels.
EU regulations require car makers to cut their fleets` average CO2 emissions by 35 per cent from 1995 levels. If they fail to replace enough gas guzzlers with more fuel efficient vehicles by 2015, car makers face fines.
CO2, like other greenhouse gases, has been linked to global warming and the EU has committed itself to cut its total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 8 percent between 2008 and 2012. The European Environment Agency estimates that cars are responsible for about 14 percent of the EU`s total CO2 emissions.
There are two main reasons for last year`s record reduction, said Transportation & Environment.
The economic crisis - together with cash incentives to scrap old vehicles and replace them with newer ones in many EU member states - lifted demand for cheaper and smaller, and thus usually more fuel-efficient, cars.
However, the report says, better technology was responsible for more than half of the cut in emissions, suggesting that the 2009 figures shouldn`t have come as a big surprise for the auto industry.
"Three years ago the car industry said it could not deliver car CO2 targets on time but is now set to achieve them years ahead of schedule," Jos Dings, director of Transport & Environment, said in a statement.
Toyota now has five years to cut its average emissions by an extra 4 percent, while France`s PSA Peugeot-Citoen SA and Italy`s Fiat SpA have to reduce theirs by 5 percent and 8 percent receptively.
A spokesman for Toyota disputed the activists` claims that the auto industry had lobbied too hard to have targets watered down.
"These were challenging targets," said Etienne Plas, adding that a push to improve technology in all models and bigger demand for smaller cars were responsible for his company`s steep cut in emissions.