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EU hits at 4x4s

2004-09-20 11:08

France is planning to increase taxes on several SUVs with high fuel consumption, prompting criticism from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who regards the move as protectionism on behalf of French car manufacturers.

Meanwhile Germany itself has tabled plans to abolish tax concessions for SUVs as from January next year. The Greens say the gaz-guzzling vehicles are incompatible with the goverment's climate protection plans.

The city of London wants SUV owners to pay double the normal toll fee while Paris wants the SUVs banned completely from the city streets.

"They're polluters, they're space-occupiers, they're dangerous for pedestrians and other road users. They're a caricature of a car," says Paris city council member Denis Baupin from the Green party.

Plush Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche off-road vehicles are an increasingly common sight in Paris's wealthier quarters. Sales surged by 11% in France last year and the cars make up nearly 5% of the market.

Earlier London mayor Ken Livingston described 4x4 vehicles as "bad for London - completely unnecessary" and called their owners "complete idiots".

In comparison to US pick-up trucks and SUVs like the Hummer, European off-roaders are relatively small and frugal.

European imports of American SUVs are miniscule. Owners of a VW Touareg, BMW 4x4 or Mercedes M-Class say a ban of such vehicles only has a small environmental effect and that the politicians are over- reacting.

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