STRAUBING, Germany (AP) -- Germany and France on Monday smoothed over a dispute over EU emissions targets for cars, calling for a ''substantial'' phasing-in period for proposed limits and some leeway on fines for automakers who miss the limits.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had achieved ''an important breakthrough'' on an EU plan that has divided the two European Union powers over recent months.
Germany, whose luxury automakers likely would be hit hard, has argued that large and small vehicles both must contribute to cuts; France, which makes less polluting vehicles, has disagreed.
The EU proposal unveiled last December would force automakers to reduce average carbon dioxide emissions from all new cars sold in the EU from around 160 grams per kilometer to 130 grams starting in 2012. Those that fail to meet the limits could face hefty fines.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas had first proposed a tougher limit of 120 grams. But the proposal was scaled back because of opposition from the German government and its powerful car industry that includes industry giants BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen.
In a joint statement, the French and German governments said they support the EU targets but want more time to introduce them and more room for maneuver that would allow the car industry to churn out more polluting models for longer.
''Our countries support a substantial phasing-in beyond the (European) Commission proposal,'' they said. That, they added, ''takes into consideration the technological capacities of the car manufacturing industry.''
''If we have reached 120 grams with the new models in 2012, we wouldn't yet have 120 grams for all cars on average,'' Merkel said at a news conference. ''That means we need a phase in which the whole range of products in the auto industry is renewed.''
The joint statement said that penalties for offenders ''should be adapted for small deviations of carmakers from their target.'' They added that car makers should be given breathing room if they are trying to introduce cleaner technology.
Still, Germany and France also advocated setting a longer-term emissions goal for 2020 ''in order to give the industry the appropriate planning security.'' That target could be fixed between 95 and 110 grams, their statement said.
Sarkozy voiced understanding for Germany's stance on the issue.
''I understand perfectly the interests of our German friends and the nearly identity-defining aspect of high-quality auto construction in Germany,'' he said.