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The Big Picture: Is blue the new green for cars?

The motor industry gets a bad wrap from environmentalists over its emissions and a seemingly stubborn reluctance to embrace a voluntary pan-European commitment to cut CO2 levels to 120g/km by 2012.

It’s not helped by the fact that European carmakers appear to have no concrete reply to counter the EC’s emissions proposals. Despite a show of unity at Frankfurt by eight CEOs, including Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne, Ford’s Lewis Booth, Renault’s Carlos Ghosn, Daimler’s Dieter Zetsche and GM’s Carl Peter-Forster, during which they committed to reduce CO2 emissions, there is no joined-up strategy as to how this might happen.

However, the UK at least does have something to shout about. The average CO2 emissions for new cars has fallen for the past 10 years. Last year, it dropped to 167.2g/km, representing a 12% reduction since 1997.

Now that’s still some way off the pan-European voluntary agreement, which requires a 25% reduction between 1995 and 2008, but it is progress. And it’s faster progress than that expected under the Kyoto treaty and the UK’s own domestic targets.

It has also underpinned a fall in CO2 emissions for the total UK car parc by 3.2% between 1997and 2005. This reduction has happened despite a 16.5% increase in the number of cars in use and an 8.6% rise in the total distance cars are travelling.

Leading the charge on new cars are the likes of Toyota, Lexus and Honda with their hybrid models (which average 136.5g/km, actually higher than 2005’s 128.3g/km due to Lexus’s move into the sector with larger engined, more powerful models), PSA Peugeot Citroën, Fiat and VW.

PSA and Fiat’s model ranges are dominated by smaller-engined cars while VW is investing in its Bluemotion technology which squeezes better efficiency out of existing petrol engines.

The irony of promoting Bluemotion, Peugeot’s Blue Lion brand for cars that are more environmentally friendly, or ‘greener’, and Mercedes’ Bluetec engines has not been lost on retailers.

Blue, according to one, appears to be the new green.

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