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EU starts clampdown on gas-guzzling vans

Average carbon emissions for each van and minibus would have to be cut by 2016 or automakers will be hit with fines.

The auto industry should stop selling its most gas-guzzling vans and minibuses in the European Union by 2016 or face fines, the EU's executive arm said on Wednesday.

The deadline would be four years later than first envisaged after powerful automakers pushed hard for a delay until the EU's 27 member states have recovered from the economic crisis.

Average carbon emissions for each van would have to be cut by 14 percent between 2014 and 2016 to 175 grams for every kilometer driven, compared to an EU average of 203 grams today, the European Commission said.

By 2020, van makers would have to hit a target of 135 grams.

The launch of the proposal was delayed several times in recent weeks as officials in the Commission's industry and environment units wrangled over the details.

Europe's big auto-making nations--France, Italy, and Germany--had pushed the Commission for a delay to 2017.

Van makers that overshoot the targets face fines.

In an initial period until 2018, the penalty will be 5 euros ($7.40) per van for each gram in excess, 15 euros for the second gram, 25 for the third, and 120 for every further gram exceeding the limit.

From 2019, the first gram will cost 120 euros per vehicle.

(Reporting by Pete Harrison, editing by Timothy Heritage and Dale Hudson)