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Germany

German Cars Overtaken in Eco-Race

It's might be hard to believe, but the great master of Vorsprung durch Technik, the German automobile industry, is no longer in pole position in the race to make modern cars more environmentally friendly.

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A study published on Wednesday by Germany's Automobile Club, VCD, revealed that Japan and France have their feet to the floor when it comes to environmental matters, and have left German car manufacturers spluttering in their wake.

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The VCD have been assessing anti-pollution merits of popular cars since 1989, and the findings from their most recent review were the worst ever for Germany, which only managed to squeeze one model, the Opel Corsa ECO 1.0 into the top ten. And even that only made it into sixth place on the ranking table.

It's bad news for Germany, which is currently still ruled in part by the Green Party, and which has long nurtured its reputation for being environmentally altruistic.

Bad boy Volkswagen

The VCD was particularly harsh in its criticism of the peoples' favorite, Volkswagen, for not installing a particle-filter to counter diesel soot in its best-selling model, the Golf.

"German manufacturers face the prospect of losing touch with environmental technology," said deputy VCD Chairman, Hermann-Josef Vogt. And the upshot of that, says the report, is that Germany could lose credibility as a centre of automobile technology, subsequently become less competitive and having to shed jobs.

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The comments were met with roaring disapproval from the German Association of the Automotive Industry, VDA, which delivered a vitriolic response, accusing the Automobile Club of being a "smorgasbord of smug, self-important people with no substance" and describing the report as being "disproportionately out of touch with reality."

So exactly what is the reality? Simply that Toyota tops the list -- which measures cars for both economic virtue and emission levels -- with its no frills Prius 1, and that Citroen, Peugeot and Daihatsu are hotter on its wheels than any German make.

Missed opportunity

A spokesman for the VCD said it need not have been that way, and that Volkswagen could have pipped Toyota to the post had it concentrated less on honing its super-speed luxury limos and simply installed standard-issue filters in its Audi 2 and Lupo model, which have now been withdrawn from the market.

The spokesman, Gerd Lottsiepen, said that without the filter, diesel cars were "yesterday's technology", and a clear statement from the makers that they don't care about the health of their customers.

Solicitousness was higher in the compact car category, which featured two appearances each from Mercedes and Opel and one from Audi, but there was again a conspicuous absence of German names on the list of family models. VW just managed to roll onto the bottom of the table at tenth place with its Golf 2.0 Variant BiFuel.

That's not good enough for Lottsiepen, who says it is time for the government, however it may look following the elections, to introduce tax benefits on cars which are equipped with today's technology.

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