The European Commission is urging car manufacturers to focus on fuel efficiency rather than performance in their advertising as part of its plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions from new cars by 20% within five years.
The commission wants to establish an EU-wide code of practice for car marketing and advertising aimed at the "promotion of sustainable consumption patterns".
The commission, which wants companies to sign a voluntary agreement by the middle of this year, says: "The way in which cars are marketed may need to be adapted so as to focus less on the dynamic performance of vehicles. To guarantee a level playing field, there is a need for co-ordinated action among the industry."
Earlier this month, the commission unveiled plans to force manufacturers to cut emissions from new cars in Europe to 130g per km by 2012. But the proposal has been attacked by the car industry, with Porsche accusing the French and Italian makers of smaller cars of waging a "war" against German manufacturers.
The carmakers association says the rules would put some €4,000 (£2,650) on the price of a new car and see thousands of jobs exported from Europe.
A group of manufacturers, including BMW, Volkswagen and the European units of General Motors and Ford, broke ranks with other European companies by sending a letter to European Commission president Manuel Barroso in which they called the plans "unrealistic" and "technically unrealisable".
The Advertising Standards Authority code of practice says car marketers should not make speed or acceleration claims the "predominant message" of their marketing communications. However, it is legitimate to give general information about a vehicle’s performance, such as mid-range statistics, braking power, road holding and top speed.