European automakers said that it would take a major effort to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 2012, but they support this plan.
Sergio Marchionne, president of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association and chief executive of Fiat SpA, said at the Frankfurt auto show that industry heavyweights were united on the issue of lowering emissions, but cautioned that meeting the European Union deadline would not be easy.
"The EU objective to bring carbon emissions from cars down to 120 grams per kilometer is achievable through an integrated approach and we fully support that route," said Marchionne, who was flanked by other European auto executives - including DaimlerChrysler AG's CEO Dieter Zetsche and Renault SA Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn.
The EU's executive arm has said it will set the new binding target early next year because the car industry was off track on its own voluntary goal to cut average emissions from new and imported cars to 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2008.
The current average is around 162 grams per kilometer.
But the car industry says it is not entirely to blame if customers choose heavier and more powerful gas-guzzlers.
It is asking for "an integrated approach" that would reduce the pressure on them with a 130 gram target - a cut of 18 percent - but also feature tax incentives and efforts to encourage the use of biofuels in an effort to reach the 120-gram level.
Marchionne said Europe's automakers had invested extensively in technologies and practices aimed at cutting emissions of carbon dioxide, with more than 50 innovations introduced since 1995.
Those include more fuel-efficient engines, work on hybrid engines, along with electric cars and even hydrogen-powered motors, as well as lighter materials and improved aerodynamics.
"We are strongly committed and take our responsibility very seriously," he said. "We count on an EU policy that supports our efforts. There is a lot at stake for both the environment and the economy."
Road transport accounts for about one-fifth of the EU's CO2 emissions, with passenger cars alone responsible for 12 percent.