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The travails of the American car industry are well documented. It’s in a financial mess with the wrong products, falling demand and serious overcapacity. Will we still have a Chrysler by this time next year? Or a GM? The jury’s still out.

And now the US car makers have to face up to President Obama’s new vision for a lower emission future. President Obama has announced that he wishes to reduce car and van emissions by one third by 2016. It’s a tough target. But not before time. And exactly the sort of action you would expect from this American president whose election ticket was for change.

What’s the reaction so far? Dave Shemmans, chief executive of the engineering and automotive consultancy Ricardo PLC had this to say: “President Obama’s announcement on vehicle emissions signals that he is serious about transforming the US auto industry. For global automakers selling into the US, this ruling will be very significant in requiring them to refocus development spend and invest significantly more towards clean technologies.

“The fact that Obama has brought these limits into place from 2016, four years earlier than under previous rules, means that the global auto industry has got a great deal of work to do in a short space of time. Obama has effectively brought the issue of vehicle carbon emissions in the fight against climate change right to the top of the agenda.”

President Obama sets tough targets for fuel-efficient vehicles

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