If money is the auto industry’s lifeblood, today Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn warned stricter European rules calling for steeper CO2 targets too soon could make it bleed.

“Every gram of CO2 that we save in our European fleet costs our group almost 100 million euros — 100 million that we have to invest in advance, without knowing when these investments pay off,” Winterkorn said.

His words were quoted by Automotive News from Paris today where he was the main speaker at a media luncheon. Instead of talking about VW Group and its accomplishments, as would be customary, he hammered points that a market to be allowed to develop for electric cars, plug-in hybrids and other alternative powertrains models.

And, he warned regulators to think twice. If they go too far tightening rules beyond 2020, it could be “fatal” he said.

“That’s why I worry when Brussels already now starts to cry out for new, more stringent norms for the time after 2020.”

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AN reports Volkswagen intends by 2020 to reduce its CO2 in its European fleet to 95g/km by then, to meet present mandates.

For the first time last year, it got its emissions down to 130g/km.

EU rules stipulate carmakers have their own weight-based targets to hit that can deviate from somewhat against the nominal EU target.

But there has been talk of going to as low as 65 g/km by 2025 which Winterkorn said is too much to ask,

Winterkorn himself was compensated $19,920,167 last year as head of the company that sold over 7.5 million vehicles during the first three quarters this year and on track to sell 10 million as targeted.

As one who meets targets now, Winterkorn said regulators are getting ahead of themselves about CO2, and they threaten European competitiveness.

“It’s too early for concrete targets. Taking the third step before the first would be fatal,” he warned as he urged policymakers to work with manufacturers to develop electric cars and plug-ins that won’t sink the companies.

“We cannot allow Europe’s companies to be impeded in global competition and this danger has never been greater,” the CEO said.

Automotive News (subscription)