Jaguar Land Rover boss defends diesel, blames VW for backlash

Ralf Speth and Yin Tongyao

Ralf Speth and Yin Tongyao

Jaguar Land Rover has launched a ferocious defense of diesel power as the United Kingdom prepares a wide-ranging plan to improve air quality in its major cities.

JLR CEO Ralf Speth, pictured above left, told Autocar, “Diesel has to—needs to—have a future,” before laying out several reasons. For a start, “the complete automotive industry needs diesel to fulfill legislative requirements.”

Speth pushed back against the tendency to lump old, high-emissions diesel tech in with cleaner, more advanced systems. “Anyone can see the black smoke coming out of old diesels is bad,” Speth told Autocar. “We need to replace them with newer ones.”

Scrapping older, dirtier vehicles could be a big part of the U.K.’s new urban emissions plans.

While Speth defended the continued use of diesel, he was adamant that it was only a stopgap, saying the “future is pure battery electric vehicles.” Instead, new diesels could be the key to bridging the gap between old-school internal combustion engines and advanced hybrids and EVs.

“ICE to ACE—internal combustion engine cars to autonomous, connected, electrified ones—will happen in parallel. There’s no switch,” Speth said. “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.”

But the most controversial comments Speth made to Autocar were in regard to Volkswagen, effectively blaming the German automaker for the diesel backlash. “This kind of manipulation software is not acceptable. Unfortunately, the whole automotive industry suffers, not just Volkswagen,” Speth said. “Nobody believes the automotive industry anymore. 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.”

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