Remanufacturing company, UBD, chairman, Lars Holmqvist, says a ruling earlier this year by the World Health Organisation (WHO) concerning the health effects of diesel engines is significant.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - part of the WHO - says the scientific evidence was "compelling" and its working group's conclusion was unanimous that diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans.

"Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide," added the body.

The importance of the findings was highlighted by Holmqvist to just-auto.

"I can tell you, the thing that will play a major role is the WHO's announcement diesel emissions are causing cancer.

"People are wondering, if diesel engines are carcinogenic, then what are buses doing in the middle of towns?

"How can you ignore [the] Cancer Institute in Lyons? I am a chemist and I think I know what I am talking about."

Holmqvist called for tougher legislation and noted there were some 400,000 city buses potentially needing to be refitted at a cost of around EUR12,000 (US$16,000) each.

The European automotive supplier body, CLEPA, however refutes the IARC's findings, insisting the study does not reflect advances in diesel emission technology.

"Instead of creating uncertainties in the markets, we should first complete on-going studies on the emissions and health impacts of modern diesel engines equipped with the European world-leading emission reduction technologies," said CLEPA CEO, Jean-Marc Gales.

CLEPA says modern road vehicles with diesel engines use filters that remove more than 99% of particles, with the remaining exhaust particle content comparable to the ambient surroundings.

Holmqvist also took the time to address the severe economic problems currently besetting Europe.

"Western Europe is going to be tough," he said. "There are [however] lights at the end of the tunnel - worldwide production of vehicles goes up year after year so somebody is buying. Ask BMW, Audi, ZF [Friedrichshafen], Bosch."

But Holmqvist added what he viewed as "fringe factories" would disappear in five years, with more concentration on main sites and some satellites for local content.

"It is going to be a problem in Europe," he said. "You can't hide it. If you want to be ironic, you started climbing to the top of the hill and then you became greedy. I am afraid it is going around the world and now China is not the cheapest,

"Cambodia and Laos are cheaper and we are going to go down before we go up again. "

Holmqvist added he felt such economic uncertainty could engender social unrest such as that seen recently in Greece - "people lose houses and cars - it is too much," he said.