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German cars world champs, except in Germany

Auto polluters must pay in Europe: Barroso
Car makers that fail to respect planned new EU emissions limits will have to pay "damages," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said in an interview to be published Sunday. "If constructors do not respect the limit, there must be consequences," Barroso told the German Bild am Sonntag weekly. "They will have to pay a form of damages, otherwise the whole system will not be very credible," Barroso said, adding that he did not like the term "sanctions." Under European draft regulations to be unveiled on December 19, average carbon dioxide emissions for new vehicles must be cut to 120 grams per kilometre by 2012, from around 160 at present. European car companies have slammed the plan, saying it is unrealistic, in particular German firms which make high-performance vehicles that produce more emissions harmful to the climate. Porsche, for instance, whose cars currently produce an average of 289 grams per kilometre at present, wants each category of vehicle to have its own separate limit. It has hinted at legal action if the EU commission does not back down.
by Staff Writers
Frankfurt (AFP) Nov 22, 2007
German auto giants represent the gold standard in car brands the world over. But sales of BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen at home are hitting the lowest level since national unification.

Despite the record strength of the euro against the dollar, sales of German cars reached 3.6 million units between January and October, up 11 percent from last year.

"2007 is likely to be the fifth record year in a row for exports," the German automotive federation (VDA) said.

But during the same period, new car registrations in Germany fell eight percent to 2.62 million units while orders were down seven percent.

"2007 may be the worst year for the automobile market in Germany since unification (in 1990) with just 3.1 million new registrations," said Willi Diez, the director of the IFA automobile industry institute in the southwestern town of Gieslingen.

The reasons are varied but the economic mood and global warming are playing a part.

In the last decade, sales of German cars have more than doubled. And unlike the automobile sector in other parts of Europe, German manufacturers have managed to increase their share of the national economy.

But could this year mark the end, or the beginning of the end, of the golden age?

"You've got to take a lot of exceptional factors into account," VDA spokesman Rotter Eckehart said.

Last year's boom -- spurred by the impending rise in value-added tax to 19 percent from 16 percent on January 1 -- has led demand to sink this year.

"That's 100,000 cars that were bought in 2006 (before the tax hike) that are missing this year," Diez said.

Eckehart said German consumers are also still skittish about the impact of the tax rise, leading them to hold off on major purchases.

"The age of cars driven in Germany has never been this high at more than eight years old," he added.

Eckehart ticked off all the factors that the industry complains about in its home market: high taxes, rising insurance prices, the heady price of gasoline and the debate about global warming.

He noted that this last point is particularly potent in Germany, where climate protection tends to be a higher priority among consumers even as they fret about the prospect of new "green" taxes on fuel.

"The phenomenon has hit the mass-market manufacturers like Volkswagen, Opel and Ford the hardest," Diez said.

"At the high end of the market, buyers have more disposable income anyway."

The European Commission has set a target to reduce carbon emissions of new cars to 120 grams per kilometre by 2012 but Germany, known for its trucks and gas-guzzling all-terrain vehicles, is fighting for a sliding scale based on the category of vehicle.

Meanwhile analysts do not expect the German car sector to brighten much next year.

"The market may see a slight recovery in 2008 thanks to falling unemployment and slightly higher wages," Diez said.

"But sales will remain a bit weak with 3.28 units sold" -- well below the German record of 3.8 million units.

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Honda Debuts All-New FCX Clarity Advanced Fuel Cell Vehicle
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Nov 20, 2007
Honda has unveiled the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show, announcing plans to begin limited retail marketing of the vehicle in summer 2008. The FCX Clarity is a next-generation, zero-emissions, hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle based on the entirely-new Honda V Flow fuel cell platform, and powered by the highly compact, efficient and powerful Honda V Flow fuel cell stack.

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