We may be in the middle of most precipitous downturn since the oil crisis of the early 1970s, but European car makers have just received another mighty shock, albeit not unexpected.

The European Parliament has just passed legislation that will require the average CO2 emissions of a new car to be just 130g/km.

That’s a real-world 58mpg from a diesel engine and 52mpg from a petrol engine. Another 10g/km reduction will be achieved by using biofuels and tyre pressure monitors.

The plan will be phased in over the next six years, and it looks as if small companies such as Bentley and Ferrari are safe, though if they break through the 10,000 annual sales barrier, they will have to join Jaguar-Land Rover and Porsche in slashing CO2 emissions by 25 per cent on their 2007 average.

It’s not hard to imagine the average car being good for 120g/km by 2015 – the Ford Focus 1.6 diesel is already down to 119g/km.

But what about BMW and Mercedes? What about any car bigger than a Golf-class hatch? Even today’s best petrol-sipping ‘Blue Efficiency’ 1.6-litre C-class is still only good for 149g/km. Even the diesel version can only manage 134g/km.

With the size of cars dictated by larger people, and the weight closely tied to stringent crash-test regulations, what can car manufacturers do when building anything of Mondeo size and above?

Moreover, there are immense fines – 95 euros per gram of CO2 – for selling cars that breach the 130g/km limit.

Personally, I think there’s more than a touch of old-fashioned state control driving the MEPs who voted for these rules.

Because, by happy coincidence, the CO2 regulations will mean the vast majority of cars built from 2015 will have to be Golf-size and below.

The result will be like that for the car ‘industry’ in East Germany under Communism.

Us proles will be driving around in the same basic down-to-earth cars, while the politicians are shuttled around in the remaining – exempt - limos.

The flaunting of your wealth through your choice of car will be halted. Rise up citizens, for you have nothing to lose but your envy for the neighbour’s BMW!

Sorry, comrades, but this is no more than the Trabantisation of the European car industry. The politics of envy rather than the environment.