BRUSSELS — BMW AG cars made more progress in reducing vehicle fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions than any other carmaker last year, an environmental group said.

But Transport & Environment, an independent European group campaigning for cleaner modes of transport, warned that the German luxury automaker and the entire car industry are still a long way from a proposed EU target to cut the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by cars.

Emissions from road transport are rising across Europe as more people drive longer distances and buy heavier cars that are safer but burn more fuel.

Eager to reduce the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, the European Commission wants all carmakers to have average emissions of no more than 120 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre by 2012 — and no more than 95 grams in 2015.

Carmakers complain this is too much too fast and say governments could tempt customers to buy cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars by reducing taxes on those vehicles.

But Transport & Environment said BMW's efforts showed that companies can make serious reductions if they are threatened with regulation.

“The slow response of most carmakers shows that the EU needs to keep up the pressure with challenging, long-term CO2 targets,” said Transport & Environment's director, Jos Dings.

The report blamed the rising weight of cars for small reductions in emissions. The average car gained 10 kilograms (22 pounds) last year, it said. Heavier cars need more fuel to move.

It said BMW cut greenhouse gas emissions faster that its competitors, with BMW's emissions down 7.3 per cent last year from 2006.

The company, the world's biggest maker of luxury cars, reported average emissions of 170 grams per kilometre — still far off the EU target and a long way from the best performing carmaker, France's PSA Peugeot Citroen, which has an average of 141 grams per kilometre.

Rival Daimler AG — which makes Mercedes-Benz cars — has not improved fuel efficiency over the past two years, the report said.

BMW and other German car makers, supported by the French and German governments, have been lobbying hard against the planned EU law. They want to exclude heavier — and less fuel-efficient — vehicles from stricter limits until 2015.

Transport & Environment based their figures on European Commission data for 18 of the EU's 27 nations last year. Information for the nine other countries — all of them

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in eastern Europe represents just 6 per cent of total EU sales, it said.

The Associated Press
August 26, 2008 at 6:45 AM EDT