Diesel sales are soaring in western Europe.
January-June sales in Germany, the UK, Italy, France and Spain showed diesels on course to take 33 percent of the total European new-car market this year - up from 30 percent last year.
In France, diesel models now account for 47 percent of the new-car market, against 41.4 percent last year.
Sales of new diesel cars are also reaching record levels in Italy. They had 33.2 percent of the market in first-half 2000 and 34.7 percent in June.
Diesels took 53 percent of the Spanish market in the January-June period, with Citroen the top brand in this field, ahead of Seat.
New common-rail diesel technology is fueling the rise, and is partly to blame for the Ford brand's declining market share across Europe. Ford's lack of modern diesel engines has left it trailing rivals such as PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. PSA achieved a record 1 million units of diesel production in 1999.
'In the first half of this year, 48.2 percent of our registrations were diesel-powered cars,' said a Peugeot spokesman. 'That compares with 44.5 percent in January-June 1999. We think it will go further.
'Diesels are now considered modern, high-tech, clean engines, he said.'
Diesel versions of the Peugeot 406 and 306 were the No. 1 and No. 2 best-selling diesels in the UK in the first half of the year. But the diesel market in the UK is not growing as fast as in some European countries. At UK pumps, there is little price differential between diesel and gasoline.
Stephane Farhi contributed
January-June sales analysis, Page 9