BMW Gets Ahead of the Curve as Europe Aims to Curb CO2 Emissions

By Jacob Brown | July 12, 2012
In the U.S., we don't often cite carbon dioxide emissions as a real concern; we're interested in fuel economy. Let the EPA worry about CO2. But in Europe, it's a hot-button issue—and it could have serious consequences on on the cars we buy here. Overseas, automakers are in talks with the EU Commission, the governing body of the confederate European countries, to drop CO2 emissions to 95 grams per kilometer by 2020. Currently, it sits at a fairly low 130 grams per kilometer by 2015, and automakers are already well on their way to meeting that goal early.
However, the newly proposed goal could be expensive to meet. Ivac Hodac, the secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, says the proposal is well beyond what the U.S., China, or Japan have on the table, and it could make it too expensive for European automakers to compete on an international stage. "Considering that most manufacturers are losing money in Europe at the moment, the industry needs as competitive a framework as possible," he said. "Targets, while ambitious, must be feasible." European Parliament member environmental spokesman Holger Krahmer says the proposal would benefit French and Italian automakers who make smaller cars. Others have contended that German automakers who make larger, more powerful vehicles would be granted exceptions, as there are apparently various loopholes for sports car makers and those who have more powerful cars and trucks in their lineups. The lone exception: BMW. Once at 200 grams of CO2 per kilometer in 1995, BMW has since spent $1.47 billion (yes, with a "b") to reduce that to 145 grams per kilometer last year. With its i3 and i8 plug-in cars coming out by 2014, the automaker will likely be ahead of the curve. And that's considering the fact that it still makes wildly fast cars like its M3, M5, and the M6. BMW is ahead of Mercedes-Benz and other German automakers because of its significant investment in alternative energy, but BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said it's going to be a "huge challenge" for the European auto industry. All automakers will have to comply to the regulations, should they be approved, but it appears premium automakers who can charge a premium for new technologies like BMW and makers of smaller cars will have the biggest advantages. The effects could significantly alter the layout of the European auto industry and perhaps force some to reconsider how they do business. Sources: Wall Street Journal (Subscription required), Deutsche Welle, The Independent