ROME -- Italy has stepped up its opposition to European plans to outlaw the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars in 12 years, with the Transport Minister Matteo Salvini calling a rapid switch to electric vehicles "suicide" and a "gift" to Chinese industry.
Rules approved by the European Parliament on Tuesday will require that by 2035 automakers must achieve a 100 percent cut in CO2 emissions from new cars sold, which would make it impossible to sell new fossil-fuel-powered vehicles in the 27-country bloc.
That plan has gone down badly in Italy, home to brands including Fiat, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, where the car industry is still largely focused on combustion-engine technology.
"We all care about water, air quality and a cleaner environment ... but that does not mean laying off millions of workers and shutting down thousands of businesses," said Salvini, who leads the rightist League party.
"The ideological fundamentalism of electricity alone is suicide and a gift to China," he added.
Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, said more time and more funding was needed to ensure a smooth transition.
Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani earlier indicated that Rome would seek to dilute the target.
"Italy will put forward its own counter-proposal: to limit the reduction to 90 percent, giving industries the chance to adapt," Tajani was quoted as saying by daily Corriere della Sera.
The domestic automotive industry employs over 270,000 workers directly or indirectly and accounts for more than 5 percent of the country's gross domestic product, according to data from automotive association ANFIA.
Sales of full-electric cars fell 27 percent last year in Italy, accounting for just 3.7 percent of total new-car registrations, according to ANFIA.
EU countries agreed the deal on banning thermal engine cars in October last year, but still need to formally rubber stamp the rules before they can take effect. Final approval is expected in March.