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European sales of gasoline-powered cars overtake diesel

LONDON (Reuters) — Sales of gasoline-powered cars have overtaken diesel in the first half of this year for the first time since 2009, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said this week.

The shift, following revelations that most diesel cars emit more pollutants on the road than laboratory tests suggested, saw gasoline car sales rise by nearly 10% from the first half of 2016, compared with an approximate 4% drop in diesel car sales in the same period, the group said.

Sales of "alternative" vehicles—hybrid, electric, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and natural gas-powered ones—also rose by more than 35% to account for 5.2% of total car sales.

The mayors of Paris and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel-engine cars in city centers by 2025 in the wake of the emissions scandal, while France is also making plans to reverse favorable tax treatments for diesel. Some expect other European governments to follow suit.

Even car manufacturing centers Stuttgart and Munich have mulled diesel engine bans.

Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating emissions tests.

ACEA, however, cautioned the shift to gasoline engines could make it tougher for Europe to meet CO2 reduction targets.

"Policy makers need to be aware that a sudden shift from diesel technology to petrol will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions," ACEA Secretary General Erik Jonnaert said.

Jonnaert also called on governments to do more to usher in "alternative" cars. Sales of hybrid electric vehicles rose by a whopping 58% in the first half of the year, and electric sales rose by 37%, but the groups still account for just 2.6% and 1.3%, respectively, of total car sales.

"More needs to be done to encourage consumers to buy alternatively-powered vehicles, for instance by putting in place the right incentives and deploying recharging infrastructure across the EU," Jonnaert said.

Reporting by Libby George; Additional reporting by Ron Bousso in London and Laurence Frost in Paris; Editing by Greg Mahlich and Mark Potter

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