New cars sold in Switzerland consumed on average 8.1 litres of fuel per 100km last year, down 2.2 per cent from 2001, according to a new report.
The car industry says it is well on track to meet the target of 6.4 litres per 100km agreed between the government and car importers for 2008.
"At 8.1 litres, we have more or less reached our target for last year," Hans-Peter Schick, director of the Swiss car importers association told swissinfo, referring to the government target of 7.9 litres.
Schick said that the figure could be explained by advances in technology and a rise in the number of diesel cars on the road.
The figures, which were released in a new study, found that the total petrol consumption of new cars has been steadily falling for over a decade.
A one-ton car consumed 7.7 litres per 100km in 1990, whereas now it consumes 5.75 litres per 100km.
The report also found that the proportion of diesel cars - which use on average 20 per cent less fuel than petrol cars - rose to 17.6 per cent in 2002.
As a result, total carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 10.4 per cent.
Schick said that he was confident of meeting the target for lowering petrol consumption to 6.4 litres per 100km by 2008.
The figure is part of an agreement between the government-run SwissEnergy programme and Swiss car importers association, Auto Schweiz, signed in February 2002 and aimed at lowering carbon monoxide levels.
A fuel consumption label was also introduced on all new car imports in January 2003.
The labels - A for smaller, urban-friendly cars to G for less environmentally- friendly models - are to help encourage the Swiss to buy cars that use less fuel.
SwissEnergy said that the label was one of the measures that would help Switzerland meet the 2008 target.
"We are relying on the energy label, which should encourage people to buy less fuel hungry cars," said Hans-Luzius Schmid of SwissEnergy.
"There is also the possibility to do something on a legal level. We are currently preparing a sort of bonus system in order to lower taxes on buying vehicles that consume less petrol."
But Schmid could not envisage lowering taxes on diesel - taxed more heavily in Switzerland than in neighbouring countries - because the government still found the fuel too dirty and special filters had only been fitted on two types of cars so far.
Not far enough
Werner Herger of the Swiss traffic and environment association, a lobby group, said the figures were positive but could be reduced even further.
"I hope that the 2008 objective can be reached. There has already been an agreement between the car importers and the government that was not respected," said Herger.
"I hope that it falls to 6.4 litres. But technically and realistically, it could fall to 5.1 litres," he said.
swissinfo with agencies
In 1990 a 1,000-kg car used 7.5 litres of fuel per 100km. Today it uses 5.75 litres per 100 km.
Diesel cars are becoming more popular, and last year accounted for 17.6 per cent of cars in Switzerland.
Diesel cars use on average 20 per cent less fuel than petrol cars.
Total carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 10.4 per cent in 2002.
Average consumption (100 km):
- 8,95 litres (1996)
- 8,80 litres (1997)
- 8,71 litres (1998)
- 8,62 litres (1999)
- 8,40 litres (2000)
- 8,29 litres (2001)
- 8,10 litres (2002)
- 7,65 litres (2003)
- 7,40 litres (2004)
- 7,15 litres (2005)
- 6,90 litres (2006)
- 6,65 litres (2007)
- 6,40 litres (2008)
Source: Auto Schweiz