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Ralf Speth says modern diesels are cleaner and success of diesel tech is important, especially for the European car industry.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) CEO Ralf Speth spoke in defence of diesel cars and criticised the demonisation of modern diesel engines around the world. Speth says that his company intends on promoting modern diesel technology, and that its continued adoption is crucial if the industry needs to meet stricter emissions control that’s imposed upon it.

“The latest diesel technology is really such a step in emissions, performance, particulates; it’s better for the environment when compared to [an equivalent] petrol. Diesel has to – needs to – have a future.”

He also stressed on the fact that diesel emissions is one for the entire transport and automotive industry, not just one related to cars. Diesel is effectively the sole power source for commercial vehicles, lorries, buses and taxis, all of which contribute heavily to air pollution, particularly in major cities, saying: "the complete automotive industry needs diesel to fulfil legislative requirements”.

Speth also highlighted the difference between older diesels and newer ones, with modern diesels being much cleaner and meeting current legislation. “Anyone can see the black smoke coming out of old diesels is bad. We need to replace them with newer ones.”

Modern diesels are an important bridging technology in ensuring emissions continue to fall before hybrids and electric cars really hit the mainstream, Speth believs.

“It’s bad for the industry, bad for Jaguar Land Rover, and bad for Europe,” he said. The last point is key, as Speth said that the European car industry more than anywhere else in the world is reliant on diesel cars, and moving away from them would impact the continent’s ability to meet targets.

Education is now needed on modern diesel technology and to promote its benefits, feels Speth. “Nobody believes the automotive industry anymore,” he said. “They see us as offenders and not giving the right information. We have to show our technology is the best you can buy, to reduce the damage to health and the environment.”

Speth said there would be no specific date when diesel-powered cars would disappear. “ICE to ACE – internal combustion engine cars to autonomous, connected, electrified ones – will happen in parallel. There’s no switch. You can’t say diesel will go in 2020. We need to develop both, internal combustion diesel and petrol engines, in addition to battery electric vehicles.”

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