Sleek car models line the stands at the Geneva Motor Show, but under the bonnet of the industry anxiety is festering. Falling diesel sales in Europe make hitting stricter CO2 targets in 2021 more challenging, accelerating the urgency of selling electric cars, while the prospect of US steel tariffs and a trade war poses a wider risk to the global free trade that is essential to run sprawling automotive supply chains. "There is lots of nervousness in the industry," says Erik Jonnaert, secretary-general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. "The demand is clearly for petrol, not diesel, and that leads to higher CO2." The emissions challenge was underscored just a week before the show opened to the public when a federal court in Germany ruled that cities had a duty to meet EU air quality standards, including banning older diesel cars from the roads. The landmark ruling could set a precedent across Europe, accelerating a decline for diesel-engine car sales after their 8% ...

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