TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. indirectly could help European carmakers sell more cars in Japan.
Honda CEO Takeo Fukui says the Japanese carmaker plans to unveil a diesel engine so clean that it meets the strictest gasoline-engine emissions rules within three years. Honda will sell it in Europe, North America and Japan, he says.
Having Honda vouch for clean diesels should help European carmakers that want to bring their
modern diesel technology to Japan. Europeans are ahead of Japanese carmakers in this technology.
Diesel engines have a poor reputation in Japan. Tokyo Metropolitan Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, in particular, paints them as environmentally foul.
DaimlerChrysler Japan Ltd. aims to challenge that view. It will sell a diesel-powered Mercedes E class in Japan starting in October. Sources say Volks-wagen Japan Ltd. also plans to sell a diesel-powered Touareg in Japan.
Verband der Automobilindustrie, the German Association of the Automotive Industry, last month distributed a glossy Japanese-language brochure titled "Clean Diesels" to the Japanese media. It said the brochure was part of its "global 'diesel offensive,' which started at the Tokyo Motor Show in October 2005."
While Japanese makers were developing hybrid-vehicle technology over the past decade, Europeans were working on diesels. Each market appeared to disdain the other's technology, but that may be changing.
Toyota Motor Corp. intends to set Lexus apart from the competition in Europe by using hybrid powerplants to boost performance.
Toyota does not plan to sell diesel-powered cars in Japan. "But there is a possibility we could," says Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe.
Nissan Motor Co. COO Toshiyuki Shiga says that if Japanese customers wanted diesels, Nissan would be well-positioned to offer them. Nissan has a broader range of diesels than any other Japanese maker, he says.
But, he adds, "We don't believe that the market is ready to accept the diesel. It will take more time."
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