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Auto chiefs converge on Paris

November 23, 2010

PARIS-The leaders of the world's major automotive companies were to gather at the Paris Auto Show last week to seek a global outlook on environmental issues, the first such gathering ever. Jean-Martin Folz, chief executive of PSA Peugeot- Citroen, broached the idea of an informal discussion about the environment with automotive leaders in Japan. Folz has met with his Japanese counterparts several times, especially Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda. PSA and Toyota have a joint venture to make small cars in Poland.

Folz, who also is president of the European Automakers Association, invited the members of the Japanese Automotive Manufacturers Association and the U.S. group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, to join him in Paris on Sept. 27. A PSA spokesman said he expected all the auto chiefs would attend. Besides a general discussion about protecting the environment, Folz specifically will try to address ways of promoting "diesel acceptance" in markets where diesels are rare, such as Japan and the United States.

A study released this month by the French Agency for the Environment and Energy Resources endorsed the clean nature of some modern diesels. In an 18-month study of diesel-powered Peugeot 607 taxis that had filters for particulate matter, the agency found the exhaust was as clean as an equivalent gasoline engine while producing 20 percent less carbon dioxide. PSA and Volkswagen are leaders in diesel sales in Europe; 40 percent of new cars there use diesel.

Folz stood in a good position to host the meeting because PSA is very active in forming joint ventures and he knows most of his colleagues already. PSA and Ford are making diesel engines together.