Diesel cars, long regarded in the UK and certain other Northern EU states as noisy, dirty and slow are currently enjoying a meteoric growth in sales throughout Europe. Rising from a mere 2.5% of new registrations in 1973, diesel had reached 22.7% by 1994 and by 2000 had reached 34% (more than one new car in three) of new car sales in Western Europe. Even more surprising is that this trend is set to accelerate - the market is expected to have reached 38-40% diesel share by the end of 2001. Mark Wilkinson reports.