And with Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown committed to increasing fuel duties by 6% above inflation in the March 1999 Budget, Gaskell said: 'I am sure the Chancellor would be horrified if customers didn't buy new cars and the heavy-dutied fuel to run them. And neither does the upper end of the car market warrant a self-righteous fiscal onslaught.
'Such cars, including many made in the UK, are leaders in technology bringing benefits in terms of safety - airbags, stability systems, advanced body construction - and also in terms of environmental technology - quick-warm catalysers, variable valve timing, better fuel consumption controls and advanced diesel engineering. All this technology eventually benefits all cars.'
With BMW now at the forefront of diesel technology following the international launch of both its 320d and 530d cars - although the former does not go on sale in the UK until next September - and the motor industry being charged with meeting challenging CO2 emission targets by 2008, Gaskell said: 'Unlike other European countries the UK Government still spurns the benefits diesel can bring in this respect and continues to tax this fuel source at similar levels to petrol.'
Defending the car against Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's integrated transport white paper Gaskell said BMW was not against the principles of the paper but, he said: 'The white paper's fundamental flaw, is that, for most of us, there is no realistic alternative to the car.'