Lucas unveils a diesel car breakthrough: European maker to use its electronic motor control, writes Russell Hotten

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The Independent Online
IN A MOVE that is expected to revolutionise the development of diesel cars, Lucas Industries, the automotive and aerospace group, will start production of the first electronically controlled diesel engine management system. The advanced system, which puts Lucas at the forefront of diesel technology, is being made for an executive car to be launched by a European manufacturer later this year.

If the system is widely adopted it will be a significant money- spinner for the company at a time when its chairman, Sir Anthony Gill, is trying to deflect attention from the City's image of Lucas as a bid target with a management in disarray.

Lucas said the company building the new car would reveal details when its vehicle is launched, possibly at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

Developing the system, to be manufactured in the Lucas plant at Blois, France, has been a multi-million-pound project taking four years. The company would not even estimate its financial potential.

A spokesman said: 'In technology terms, it is very important, and a clear demonstration of our leadership in engine management. But at this stage the breakthrough is in the technology and application.'

Lucas said the advantage of the system is the electronic distribution of fuel in the engine, aiding smoother and more efficient running.

Lucas already supplies more than half the diesel equipment to Peugeot, but the French company is not thought to be the car maker concerned. A more likely one is Mercedes, which is investing heavily in diesel models, or possibly Audi.

Diesel sales in the UK have grown rapidly, thanks to tax incentives and better products. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders diesel vehicles made up 12.6 per cent of the market last year, compared with 0.04 per cent in 1980. Diesel sales account for 34 per cent of the French market and 11 per cent in Germany.

Lucas, which unveils interim results on 29 March, has seen its share price almost double to 139p since the start of feverish takeover talk last year. It has been forced to restructure, largely due to recession in the automotive sector, and has announced a programme of 4,000 job cuts and sell-offs.

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