Toyota, Nissan, and Honda Motor plan to sharply increase sales of diesel-engine cars and trucks in Europe, according to reports.

Citing the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper, CBS Marketwatch reported the Japanese car makers are looking to increase their sales of diesel-engine vehicles to about 40% to 50% of overall car sales in the market by 2006. Diesel cars are expected to account for 55% of new car sales in the market by 2008, the Nikkei said.

Toyota is hoping to raise the proportion of diesel cars in its overall car sales in Europe from around 30% to 40% by 2006, according to the Nikkei. Toyota also plans to boost the number of diesel models among its Lexus brand luxury cars to more than half, the report added.

Nissan reportedly will increase its procurement of diesel engines from French parent Renault and offer the engines in its compact cars and Pathfinder sport utility vehicles to be launched in Europe this fiscal year, the Nikkei said.

The paper said Nissan is also planning to increase the share of diesel cars in its overall European vehicle sales to about 40% to 50% in two years.

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The Nikkei reported Honda is hoping to boost its diesel car sales from more than 30% to 50% within two years. Next spring, Honda plans to offer diesel CR-V SUV models and, in summer, will launch diesel FR-V minivans.

According to CBS Marketwatch the Nikkei said Honda will offer a diesel version of its Accord model and plans to introduce a diesel engine in its Civic when the model line undergoes a model change in 2006.

However, Honda already builds the current Civic hatchback line in the UK with an available 1.7-litre turbodiesel sourced from Isuzu. The Accord engine is Honda’s first in-house-designed diesel.