"As we are proving with our new family of diesel engines, these can be as clean as gasoline engines with an on-going built-in advantage of around 15% lower CO2 emissions," he said.
"This continues to be a key issue even though at this moment in time everyone is talking about NOx. We are seeing a highly emotional, political and illogical kind of discussion, but when you look at the facts and the technological potential, it would be absolutely stupid to forego the potential that diesel provides."
Nor, said Zetsche, is demand for diesel showing any sign of abating among premium brands untouched by the Dieselgate saga. He said, somewhat caustically: "Beyond the politicians and media, the customer has some relevance in markets as well and neither BMW nor Mercedes-Benz has seen one basis point change in the take rate for diesel in Europe over the last year. We are convinced that we will continue to offer from both a customer benefit and an environmental point of view a good choice of diesel engines on an on-going basis."
When asked how long he envisaged diesel engines surviving, Zetsche replied: "Exactly as long as gasoline engines."
Zetsche also confirmed that, despite the warm reception afforded to the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept car, there are no plans for Maybach to produce stand-alone vehicles of its own in the same way as its sister sub-brand AMG has been able to do. "We were there before and found out that volumes for a stand-alone Maybach are pretty limited," he said. "Redefined as a sub-brand with increased integration with the mother brand Mercedes-Benz yet still sufficiently differentiated to provide exclusivity has proven to be an absolute formula for success."
As evidence of this, Zetsche cited that, two years after its introduction, Mercedes still sells 500 Maybachs every month in China alone, every one selling for a premium "which is pretty unheard of".