The death knell will sound for sports cars and luxury vehicles if European laws on car emissions come into force, it was claimed last night.
The rules, proposed by the European Commission, were so stringent they could "wipe automotive manufacturing off the face of the UK and Europe", according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
But the European Commission said voluntary deals with manufacturers had failed to deliver the necessary climate change cuts and it was now time to bring in legislation for cleaner new cars.
The proposals – which must be approved by EU governments before they become law – would force manufacturers to cut average Co2 emissions to 130 grams per kilometre by 2012.
The plans were met by fierce opposition from the SMMT – the representative body for the UK automotive industry.
Spokesman Nigel Wanncott said: "This proposed legislation is likely to result in less choice for the motorist and higher prices on the dealer forecourt.
"We support the fundamental tenant which is the need for cleaner cars, but manufacturers who have made the cleanest cars have often found that consumers do not want to buy them.
"We need a more integrated approach looking at the development of alternative fuels and government incentives for people to buy cleaner vehicles.
"Otherwise manufacturers will simply be forced to make cars that consumers don't want. Cars with large engines – sports car and luxury vehicles – will not be able to be produced.
"We don't want to wipe manufacturing off the face of the UK and Europe because targets are too stringent, choice is reduced and vehicles too costly."
David Malpass, senior operations manager of the automotive supply chain initiative Accelerate, cautioned: "Getting the vehicles to meet the standards is going to be a serious challenge."
But a spokesman for development agency Advantage West Midlands said the laws were unlikely to affect the region's automotive manufacturers.
He said: "It is not unexpected, this is the way that legislation is now moving.
"AWM has already invested £25 million in facilities to improve research and development for premium cars."
Don Hume, spokesman for Jaguar – which produces the XK sports car at Castle Bromwich – and Solihull-based Land Rover, refused to comment on the proposed laws. But he added that the Ford group was serious about reducing emissions.
He said: "Ford has already committed £1 billion to developing environmental technologies and Jaguar and Land Rover play a key part in that.
"Last year Land Rover launched a carbon offset scheme, which offsets 100 per cent of the carbon emissions generated by car production at its plants and the first 45,000 miles driven by its 4x4s.
"Also Jaguar has pioneered lightweight aluminium bodywork, which improves the performance of a vehicle.
"On top of this both Jaguar and Land Rover are making year-on-year reductions in their Co2 emissions. In the last three years Land Rover had reduced emissions by 11 per cent." Yesterday's agreement ends weeks of wrangling inside the European Commission, amidst fierce lobbying from European manufacturers opposed to strict limits.
But, following a damning United Nations report last Friday about the state of the environment without harsh moves to tackle global warming, the Commission stuck to its plan to legislate.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Cleaner, more efficient and affordable cars will help reduce carbon dioxide in the EU, enable us to achieve our Kyoto targets, save energy and encourage innovation.
"All member states will need to pull their weight in implementing the measures necessary and have a major responsibility to encourage the purchase of fuel-efficient cars as well as discourage fuel inefficiency." The Commission first threatened legal action last year when it became clear that European carmakers would not reach an agreed voluntary target to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars to 140 grams per kilometre by 2008.