TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan may introduce subsidies and tax breaks for buyers of passenger cars equipped with clean diesel engines as early as in fiscal 2009 in an attempt to cut greenhouse gas emissions, government officials said Thursday.
The officials said the budgetary and tax measures were part of proposals discussed during the first meeting the same day of a government panel for the promotion of clean diesel cars, expected to be launched within a year or so by leading Japanese automakers.
In addition to officials from the industry, environment and transport ministries, industry officials including Fujio Cho, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, and Fumiaki Watari, president of the Petroleum Association of Japan, took part in the meeting.
The panel will try to come up with specific steps necessary for the promotion by April or May, so that some of them can be presented at this year's Group of Eight summit to be held in Hokkaido in July, the officials said.
About 50 percent of cars sold in Europe are powered by diesel engines. But in Japan, negative consumer perceptions of diesel-powered vehicles as noisy and smoky are deep-seated.
Less than 0.1 percent of passenger cars on Japanese roads are currently driven by diesel engines, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
A diesel vehicle is generally 20 to 30 percent more fuel-efficient than a gasoline car, and many leading automakers are strengthening research and development of next-generation clean diesel engines, designed to meet stricter environment regulations of their key markets.
Industry minister Akira Amari and Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita were among other participants of the kick-off meeting of the panel.