FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A rushed and overly tough change to European emissions tests in the wake of the cheating scandal at Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) could make diesel vehicles so expensive that manufacturers have to stop selling them, a trade body warned on Monday.
"The automobile industry agrees with the need for emissions to more closely reflect real-world conditions, and has been calling for proposals for years," the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said in a statement.
"However, it is important to proceed in a way which allows manufacturers to plan and implement the necessary changes, without jeopardizing the role of diesel as one of the key pillars for fulfilling future CO2 targets."
Diesel vehicles have been encouraged in some European markets because they can produce less carbon dioxide -- a major greenhouse gas -- than gasoline vehicles. However, they can also produce higher levels of nitrous oxides (NOx), which are harmful to human health.
The European Commission has been ratcheting up pressure on carmakers to agree to faster, deeper diesel emissions cuts, counting on public anger after Volkswagen admitted cheating in U.S. emissions tests.
European government officials met in Brussels last week in an attempt to unlock a stalemate over plans to introduce real-world measurements of NOx emissions rather than rely on easily manipulated lab tests.
Real-world NOx testing is due to begin early next year, with its results coming into play in late 2017.
"ACEA continues to stress the need for a timeline and testing conditions that take into account the technical and economic realities of today's markets, allowing for reasonable transition time to apply RDE (real driving emissions) to all new vehicles," ACEA said.
"Without realistic timeframes and conditions, some diesel models could effectively become unaffordable, forcing manufacturers to withdraw them from sale," hitting both consumers and jobs, ACEA said.
Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Mark Potter