The world's largest producer of diesel engines lured all manner of folk to a press conference in Canary Wharf, London at lunchtime today to remind everyone that that's what they are.

Apart from describing the great beauty of their two new diesel engines which confirm their status as global champion oil-burners, PSA Peugeot Citroen (in this initiative partnered by Ford) used the occasion to pour scorn on hybrid cars and other half-baked solutions to global warming.

Ford joined the attack under the leadership of Lewis Booth who is four days into his new job as head of Ford of Europe and the Premier Auto Group. "We think it is a very dangerous precedent for legislators at any level - local government or European Commission - to bias towards technologies rather than outcomes."

He was making the point specifically in answer to a question about the validity of the Toyota Prius hybrid getting exemption from the congestion charge in London. The hybrid was a niche product, subsidised by taxpayers which would never be more than 0.1% of the car market because of its premium price and limited benefit.

A Dutch journalist reminded Jean-Martin Folz, head of PSA, that Holland intended to limit the growth of diesel. Folz was impatient: "CO2 emissions creates the greenhouse effect and it is a very urgent issue. Particulate filters are a complete answer to the soot emission from diesels and existing technology can make these cars create less particulate than petrol cars. It is not an issue."

What would be an issue though said Booth in support, was if every member state of the EU started introducing its own variations at local level. That way would spell chaos and an inability for the carmakers to concentrate on - and fund - the research needed for addressing the main challenges.

The main dish of the day though was the launch of two new families of diesel engines which together will complete the diesel engine ranges for both partners. This investment cost €332m and is Phase 4 in a collaboration that started in 1998. So they are both pretty pleased they can slacken the pace for a while and spend money only on development to meet legislative changes.

Ford will build at Dagenham, east of London, the 2.2 litre commercial diesel engine optimised for durability and sustained peak-revs running. It will go in the ubiquitous Ford Transit and PSA's Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs). PSA will build the passenger car engine - also 2.2 litres coincidentally but with radically different characteristics designed to major on low speed torque - at its French plant in Moselle. Both companies will be making up to 200,000 units of each a year. Compared with a petrol engine of similar performance, there is a 20% fuel gain and CO2 performance improvement.

Folz is thrilled with the deal and the value of it to his company which is becoming the world's canniest joint-venturer. About 20% of its development work is now undertaken with a partner (Renault, Fiat, Mitsubishi Motor, BMW and Toyota are the others.) "We are now by far the world leader in diesel technology," he said. He has shovelled €1bn into Moselle since 1998 and can make 2.2m power packs a year. Within five years, that will be 3.7 million. The range now gives "something for everyone".

Compared with the earlier diesel units, the new engines achieve 25% more power for the same or lower fuel consumption and with better emissions. This year it is expected that diesel car sales will top petrol sales for the first time in Europe.

Rob Golding

Jean-Martin Folz
Lewis Booth