TURIN - Italy has asked the European Union for a last-minute delay in imposing the law which, starting January 1, 2000, will ban the production and distribution of leaded fuel.
If the EU accepts the request, leaded fuel will survive in Italy until January 1 2003.
So far, only Greece, Spain and Portugal have asked for an extension - Spain for one year, and Greece and Portugal for two years. The EU will reply to the requests by the end of October.
According to recent figures, 10.8 million cars are not fitted with catalytic converters in Italy - out of a total of 26.3 million. Of the cars without catalysts, 5.3 million can run with unleaded fuel as they are, while another 3.8 million could use unleaded fuel with minor engine changes or fuel additives. That leaves 1.7 million cars unable to use unleaded fuel - cars that will have to be scrapped when the new laws are introduced.
As a result of the problem, the Italian government is considering the introduction of a new round of scrappage incentives to help eliminate the non-catalytic passenger cars still circulating in Italy.
The government last introduced such an incentive last year. The incentive led to a sharp increase in new-car sales.
The Transport Ministry is currently evaluating a proposal made by UNRAE (the association of foreign carmakers) and FEDERAICA (the Italian association of car dealers).
This proposal includes incentives to buy a new car if an old one is scrapped.
But it also includes a sharp reduction in the used-car registration tax if the buyer ensures the car is fitted with a catalyst.
UK car owners who use leaded gasoline are being urged to prepare early for the fuel changes taking place at the end of the year.
By January 1, 2000, leaded gasoline will be withdrawn from UK garage forecourts as part of the European strategy to reduce pollution and improve air quality.
Motorists who depend on leaded gasoline for engine protection have several options - they can use lead replacement gasoline or anti-wear additives for mixing with unleaded gasoline. Engine modifications may be necessary for cars used for heavy driving or towing.
Information about the fuel changes is available from UK garages.