California sued six of the world's largest automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages.
The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.
It comes less than a month after California lawmakers adopted the nation's first global warming law mandating a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.
California also has targeted the motor industry with first-in-the-nation rules adopted in 2004 requiring carmakers to force cuts in tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks.
Automakers, however, have so far blocked those rules with their own legal action -- prompting one analyst to say California's lawsuit represents a way for California to pressure car manufacturers to accept the rules.
"That's the objective," said David Cole, chairman of the Centre for Automotive Research, a nonprofit organisation that provides public research and forecasts about the industry. "They want to get the automakers basically to bow down and pay homage to the (emissions) law."
The complaint, which an motor industry trade group called a "nuisance" suit, names General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., the U.S. arm of Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG and the North American units of Japan's Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd..
Environmental groups hailed the lawsuit, saying it represented another weapon for the state as it seeks to curb greenhouse gas emissions and spur the motor industry to build vehicles that pollute less.