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Gas-guzzling German cars bashed
Photo: DPA

Gas-guzzling German cars bashed

Published: 04 Dec 2012 09:32 GMT+01:00
Updated: 04 Dec 2012 09:32 GMT+01:00

Environmental campaigners have taken aim at famous German car brands like Porsche, Audi and BMW, criticizing their high CO2 emissions as well as Germany's tax system they say promotes petrol-guzzling vehicles.

A symbol of industrial might exported all over the world, Germany's sports vehicles, estate cars and 4x4s also enjoy huge domestic popularity due to what one campaigner derided as an "absurd" tax incentive scheme.

"Germany has the most absurd policy in the world of making incentives for polluting cars," said Patrick Huth from pressure group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German Environmental Aid or DUH).

Two-thirds of cars sold in Germany are registered to companies, although this percentage rises to 80 percent for the swankier models.

Companies can offset for tax purposes the entire price of the car and petrol without any fixed limit on carbon emissions, as there exists in other countries such as Ireland or France.

The more expensive the model, the greater the fiscal incentive for companies and in a country where cars are often seen as a status symbol, firms offer employees luxury vehicles to attract talent.

"Companies order heavy vehicles with high fuel consumption because image is more important to them than the fight against climate change," complained Sigrid Totz from NGO Greenpeace.

"This tax law ensures the German auto industry has a domestic market for its premium brands," added Totz.

The DUH group has calculated that the tax regime on cars owned by individuals is also one of the least strict in terms of carbon emissions in Europe.

And Huth criticized Germany's famously speed limit-free motorways, "the only case in the industrialized world" as an "incentive to buy souped-up vehicles."

Statistics appear to back up the campaigners' argument. Germany routinely finds itself bottom of the class when it comes to the CO2 emissions of new cars sold in the country.

Over the first seven months of 2012, cars sold in Denmark and Portugal spewed out on average less than 120 grammes of CO2 per kilometre travelled while in Germany, this was over 140 grammes, according to manufacturers' data.

Suckers for horsepower

Nevertheless, the top companies are striving to improve the situation, said Matthias Wissmann, from the VDA association which represents the Germany auto industry.

"Since 2006, the German brands have cut their average (fuel) consumption by 20 percent" thanks mainly to billions of euros invested in improving motor efficiency, Wissmann said.

And Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, an expert from the CAR-Centre for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, said environmentalists should not necessarily point the finger at the top brands.

"Premium German carmakers have made more progress than lower range manufacturers," he told news agency AFP, adding that many top-of-the-range vehicles have similar emissions to less modern and less expensive cars.

German manufacturers "have invested enormously in technology and have no problem respecting the CO2 emission limits in Europe," he added.

Consumers in Germany do however tend to be suckers for horsepower, with a trend for ever bigger engines, a study conducted by Dudenhöffer in August showed.

In the first seven months of 2012, the average horsepower of the engines of new cars sold in Germany stood at 138 hp, up from a previous record of 135 hp seen in 2011 and 130 hp in 2010.

Nevertheless, "more horsepower does not automatically translate into higher fuel consumption," given new generation fuel-saving technology, Dudenhöffer wrote as a conclusion to that study.

The expert did acknowledge that Germany had a lot of catching up to do in the area of hybrid vehicles, where motors are driven by a combination of fuel and electricity.

Over the first 10 months of the year, Japanese giant Toyota seized 75 percent of this market in Germany, ahead of French group PSA (Peugeot-Citroen), itself ahead of German manufacturers.

For Huth, this too can be put down to the "near-absence of tax incentives" to develop greener cars in Germany.


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Your comments about this article

10:56 December 4, 2012 by blackboot11
Hybrid cars are not the answer either... the energy still has to come from somewhere to power them and the batteries used in these types of cars are environmentally TOXIC. What happens to thse used batteries when they are changed out for new batteries? (approx every 3 years) A new toxic waste dump is created... just great, isn't it?
11:31 December 4, 2012 by lucksi
"And Huth criticized Germany's famously speed limit-free motorways, "the only case in the industrialized world" as an "incentive to buy souped-up vehicles."

Riiiight. Everyone in the US, on the other hand, buys little economic cars with much less horsepower than available here.

No wait, for some reason, it is the opposite.

And yes, higher HP does not mean worse fuel consumption. My little 90 HP four banger has a combined rating of 7,7 liter per 100 km. In real life, it takes 10. Flat out on the highway it can go up to 13 (but it does go 210 kph). My next car will have 110 or 140 HP and has a combined rating of ~ 4,5 liter per 100 kilometers. What a difference 15 years of technology can make.
11:35 December 4, 2012 by raandy
blackboot11 true enough,

In the USA the main obstacle in getting the number of gas guzzlers off the road was low fuel prices, in the past year people have realized that less than 3 dollar a gallon gas is a thing of the past.

Also taxes on gas consuming autos is not favorable, as you will find out when you pay the registration.

Price of fuel in Europe is far more expensive, which would lead me to believe that the statement in the article about "near-absence of tax incentives" is very true.
12:05 December 4, 2012 by grinners
Regarding the Autobahn comment, Lucksi has it. Very good point.

The car we drive uses 6,3 lt/100 km.

Not bad for an SUV.

When Lamborghini can finally produce a car with the same thirst, I'll be onto it :-)
12:06 December 4, 2012 by sonriete
Is there any small pleasure that can be left unregulated by the government? One reason Germany has a strong economy is the production of these premium cars. Look to France, where they also have a large auto building sector, Peugeot and Renault are basically bankrupt and dependent on state support, the reason for that is their specialty in making low HP small cars. S this article reprogram that the average German emissions are 15% higher than in Denmark, is that really such a big deal? I'm sure there are plenty of habits that Danish people have that are not the worlds best also.
14:07 December 4, 2012 by michael4096
Germans spend a larger proportion of their disposable income on cars than any other peoples I've seen. I don't know if it's status or love of quality or the weather - I would rather be stranded in Denmark on the worst day of the year than in Bavaria. However, I'm pretty sure the reason for this love isn't tax incentives.
15:17 December 4, 2012 by McM
As if it matters in the long run. People have so little to do these days they can afford the luxury of engaging in irrelevant environmental debates and new age hypocrisy about every farty little issue that spews out of the populist press engines and ranting new media gurus. 

The Earth's climate will change with or without our help. It always has and as long as it is not hit by a giant plasma solar storm or nasty comet it probably will continue too. To think we really make much difference besides a few surface chemical interactions is very egotistic to say the least. Let's all do the electric car dance and produces tons of toxic waste batteries. Close down the Nuclear plants it's scaring the political numbers men. Now we need more sustainable energy to drive our new electric cars but we don,t have enough power plants ... and it's scaring the kids as the schools preach more doom and gloom environmental jingoism. 98 percent of all species that have populated our earth over it's short 4 billion years history are now extinct. It is the natural way wether by self inflicted or external influences a few thousand years here or there  won't make any difference. Sadly, we are all so full of self importance and blind faith in our own pathetic efforts to inject drama and meaning into our lives we swallow all this crap and ignore our real place in the scheme of things . Yep , better pick on some issues to keep me going,...yep...cars , now there's a touchy little topic. Should be good for a few guilty environmental posts.

Oh... OK so am stirring a wee bit, must be the weather, .... all screwed up by that nasty carbon element that keeps us all glued together.
15:32 December 4, 2012 by marimay
You will have to pry my 2003 540i M sport from my cold dead hands.
22:10 December 4, 2012 by Wise Up!
See what happens when you start believing in fairy tales? You twist yourselves in knots trying to justify more regulation where in the long run you are just killing off your own most successful industires.

Global warming is the biggest hoax perpetrated on man!
08:55 December 5, 2012 by Arch Stanton
Well, DUH!
09:47 December 5, 2012 by delvek
Thats them, the high emission fast car drivers!!!

Its their fault!!! Get them!!! there they are!!!
16:21 December 6, 2012 by american25276
i have a 79 f250 with a built 460 and six inches of lift on it let someone try and take it
20:24 December 6, 2012 by Englishted

Would it not be prise you cold dead hands from the car?

or are your hands really that big :-O.
19:35 December 7, 2012 by Drewsky
The automobile is a German invention and so are autobahns. It's good to know that there's at least one place left in the world where a good car can be driven the way it was intended. As for mileage/ emissions, technology is already compensating for the high speeds. Cars have 6 speeds and a host of electronic features that level the playing field. I agree with those who doubt Hybrid cars. I live in the States, where a lot of people piously drive these cars (which are ugly and slow, by the way). They claim to get about 10 miles/ gallon (sorry; someone else can convert to metrics on this) more than the conventional version (Ford Focus is a good example), but independent tests suggest otherwise. Those Lithium batteries cost about $ 5,000 US to replace, by the way. They're also a toxic time bomb. My solution is to limit driving altogether, using a combination of walking, bike & public transportation whenever possible. THAT helps the environment more than anything else.
10:26 December 8, 2012 by soros
Maybe it's time for Germany to look at the unlimited speeds on the Autobahn to decide whether the increased pollution high speeds cause is worth the thrill or whatever drivers get out of going 200 km/ph or whatever. Lower speed limits would (a) encourage people to take ICE trains, (b) probably save lives, (c) reduce road rage, esp. against slower moving drivers and, maybe, encourage the formation of a less neurotic society. (Yes, Germans are neurotic...) Denkt mahl daran.
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