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Land Rover takes safety step

Land Rover, whose sport utility vehicles are prime targets for green-minded politicians, will cut the average carbon dioxide emissions of its vehicles by some 20 per cent by 2012, which is more than the average cuts the European Union is seeking; according to its managing director.

The brand and its sister Jaguar marque, which their owner Ford Motor wants to sell, are investing pound stg. 700 million ($1.6 billion) in CO2 improvements in their five-year business plan, with most of the money earmarked for Land Rover, Phil Popham told the Financial Times.

The EU is preparing legislation requiring car makers to reduce their cars' average CO2 emissions through improved vehicle technology to 130 grams per kilometre by 2012, about 18 per cent lower than last year's average of 160g/km.

Land Rover, like BMW, Porsche and other premium car makers, is unlikely to meet the target, and favours legislation that will take into account vehicles' weight, size or other relative factors when mandating cuts.

“The pound stg. 700 million is a bit north of a 20 per cent improvement,” Mr Popham said. “We can meet the intent of the legislation in terms of percentage improvement, but there's no way we're going to get the fleet average down to 130g/km.”

Land Rover and Jaguar, with no smaller vehicles in their line-up, are seen as two of Europe's brands most vulnerable to souring political sentiment on high-emission cars. After lagging behind competitors in developing smaller and cleaner cars, they are now investing heavily in them.

At last month's Frankfurt Motor Show, Land Rover teased viewers with a film showing an image of a smaller concept vehicle expected to be unveiled next January in Detroit. The crossover-type vehicle was shown pulling out of a parking garage alongside a Mini, making it clear it would be smaller than anything in Land Rover's fleet.

Land Rover is installing emissions-cutting 'stop-start' systems on its 2009 Freelander vehicles, which it will make standard on its fleet. The brand is expanding its diesel offering and developing a full hybrid car.

CO2 is seen as perhaps the biggest single risk factor dogging the sale of Land Rover, which, unlike Jaguar, is profitable and reporting record global sales.

Potential bidders doing due diligence on the brands including; Ripplewood Holdings, Terra Firma, Cerberus Capital Management, TPG, One Equity Partners, and India's Tata Motors; are privately pressing Ford for guarantees on the issue.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone is mooting a flat pound stg. 25 a day congestion charge for big cars.