Ralf Speth backs diesel as a technology and says its continued success is crucial for the whole European car industry

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) boss Ralf Speth has launched a fierce defence of diesel cars and attacked the demonisation of modern diesel engines, which he believes to be incorrect.

Speth told Autocar that his company would be doing more to promote modern diesel technology, and said that its continued adoption would be crucial if the industry was to meet the every stricter emissions legislation imposed upon it.

“The latest diesel technology is really such a step in emissions, performance, particulates; it’s better for the environment when compared to [an equivalent] petrol.  Diesel has to – needs to – have a future.”

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Speth believes that the issue of diesel emissions is one for the entire transport and automotive industry, not just one related to cars, as diesel is the effectively the sole power source used for commercial vehicles, lorries, buses and taxis, all of which are big contributors to air pollution, particularly in major cities, saying: "the complete automotive industry needs diesel to fulfil legislative requirements”.

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Speth highlighted the distinction between older diesels and newer ones, with modern diesels being much cleaner and meeting current legislation. Reporting on diesel has lumped the technology old and new together as a whole, he believes, and has led to the demonisation of the technology as a whole, which Speth believes to be incorrect.

“Anyone can see the black smoke coming out of old diesels is bad. We need to replace them with newer ones.”

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Speth said the cleaner emissions of modern diesels is the important bridging technology in ensuring emissions continue to fall before hybrids and electric cars really hit the mainstream. Widespread adoption of hybrid and electric cars is needed for the industry to meet stricter legislative emissions targets, but the industry was instead seeing a shift back towards petrols.

“It’s bad for the industry, bad for Jaguar Land Rover, and bad for Europe,” he said. The last point is key, as Speth said that the European car industry more than anywhere else in the world is reliant on diesel cars, and moves away from them would impact the continent’s ability to meet targets.

Speth hinted that he believed the start of the demonisation against diesel can be traced back to the Volkswagen Dieselgate emissions scandal, on which he said: “This kind of manipulation software is not acceptable. Unfortunately, the whole automotive industry suffers, not just Volkswagen.”

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Education is now needed on modern diesel technology and to promote its benefits, Speth believes. “Nobody believes the automotive industry anymore,” he said. “They see us as offenders and not giving the right information. We have to show our technology is the best you can buy, to reduce the damage to health and the environment.”

Speth said there would be no specific date when diesel-powered cars would disappear. “ICE to ACE – internal combustion engine cars to autonomous, connected, electrified ones – will happen in parallel. There’s no switch. You can’t say diesel will go in 2020. We need to develop both, internal combustion diesel and petrol engines, in addition to battery electric vehicles.”

Speth believes that battery electric vehicles will prove to be the key future powertrain technology, with about 25-30% of JLR’s sales planned to be of electric cars by 2025. By 2020, half of the company's models will offer some form of electrification, ranging from mild hybrids to fully electric cars, such as the Jaguar I-Pace. Speth doesn’t see a future for fuel cells, however, believing them to be “poor from an environmental point of view”.

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“The future is pure battery electric vehicles,” he said. “No other technology will bring that freedom.”

He called on the British government to do more to support the development of battery technology, and bring together academia to help achieve it. At the moment, Speth says JLR will be buying in all of its battery technology from Asia, as there simply is no provider in the UK.

“It’s not for JLR to lead, the UK should do a lot better. Academia should be working on the challenges of modern mobility. We’re on an island, and the technology is too big to transport.

“The UK needs a manufacturer. It has missed an opportunity to be ahead in modern mobility. We have the best universities, we know the future is battery electric vehicles, why not use their skills? We’d buy batteries from here tomorrow," he said.

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Comments
31

5 May 2017
JLR should be using its hybrid technology to solve this issue; not continuously banging on about the worthiness of diesel.

5 May 2017
soldi wrote:

JLR should be using its hybrid technology to solve this issue; not continuously banging on about the worthiness of diesel.

You commented on the previous article about your hatred of JLR... is everything okay at home? Does Daddy drive a Rover? ;-)

5 May 2017
You know the argument is won when your opponent starts to get personal. I don't hate JLR, but I don't think these kind of statements from them are very clever. Diesel Range Rovers in Central London are the last thing I want to see. Why not encourage them to sell more of their hybrids instead?

5 May 2017
If JLR wants customers to trust them they could take a lead in providing real world emissions figures. As it is the gap between their official figures and actual results on the Ingenium diesels is ludicrous.

5 May 2017
I agree wholeheartedly about the need for the UK to develop battery technology and have an industry to support it. What is the Government's strategic plan for the next 5-10 years??

5 May 2017
Hedonist wrote:

What is the Government's strategic plan for the next 5-10 years??

Leave the EU single market and heavily tax cars over £40k - JLR must be thinking what fools they were for investing in the UK.

6 May 2017
Hedonist wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly about the need for the UK to develop battery technology and have an industry to support it. What is the Government's strategic plan for the next 5-10 years??

Maybe the government should take a couple of steps back, and look at encouraging/creating the right environment for developing battery technology, rather than its enthusiasm for automated vehicles which it keeps harping on about.

5 May 2017
They are sticking their heads in the sands. It is as if Herr Speth has never heard of Tesla, or BYD who are selling 100% electric buses. Or Geely / LTI plug-in hybrids taxis. Or countless other Chinese companies we haven't heard of, who are currently working flat-out to be the electric car, ie car, leaders of the future. JLR are sitting around waiting for someone to build a massive battery factory next to their facilities. Sorry guys, you've got to get off your lazy backsides and get on with it yourselves. Otherwise you will be lambs to the slaughter.

5 May 2017
paddyb wrote:

They are sticking their heads in the sands. It is as if Herr Speth has never heard of Tesla, or BYD who are selling 100% electric buses. Or Geely / LTI plug-in hybrids taxis. Or countless other Chinese companies ..........

I know of Tesla, a car company that has never really made any profit.

I know a few good chinese take aways, real nice. But havent heard of china car makers. Oh yes byd makes those exploding electric taxis and clone western car designs.

Whats will all the chinese trolls in Autocar these days?

7 May 2017
shortbread wrote:

I know of Tesla, a car company that has never really made any profit.

I know a few good chinese take aways, real nice. But havent heard of china car makers. Oh yes byd makes those exploding electric taxis and clone western car designs.

Tesla currently makes a gross margin of 27% on its cars, getting on for the best in the industry. The only reason it reports a loss is that it is growing at over 100% a year. (If its reported losses were a problem, it wouldn't have just overtaken Ford in market cap!)

Re Chinese automakers, Geely owns Volvo and LTI (who make the London Taxis). BYD is backed by Warren Buffett. Other Chinese carmakers are in joint ventures with western firms, sucking out their technology at a rapid rate.

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