Speaking at BMW's annual press dinner in London, Jim O'Donnell was forthright in his views about the problem companies face because of congestion charging. He said: 'I know some will agree with the principle that anything will do to restore some form of order to London's congested streets. I, however, cannot and do not see this barmy scheme through such rose-tinted spectacles.
'It will cost our Park Lane dealer £70,000 in 2003. For larger central London businesses, this figure might be 10 times higher. It will prove to be another chunk of red tape, another backdoor tax and another burden on business, quite apart from the regressive effect on nurses at Westminster hospital and other low-paid workers in our capital.'
He joked that The Beatles penned the song 'Taxman' in 1966, with the line 'If you drive a car I'll tax the streets', and that '37 years later Ken Livingstone is about to turn fantasy into reality.'
O'Donnell went on to predict further growth for the diesel market in the next year, powered by company cars. He said: 'In October, diesel sales accounted for 26.8% of the market and sales have risen by over 40% since 2001. BMW diesel sales echo this trend and have risen by 83%.
'I predict diesel volumes will continue to grow – perhaps not to the levels of some continental markets, but they could reach 35% during the next two years.'
2003 will be a critical year for BMW, with two significant diesel models: the 730d and the MINI diesel, using the 1.4-litre engine developed by Toyota.
Also next year, the firm will launch the flagship long wheelbase 760iL, Z4 roadster, M3 CSL, new 5-series and 6-series.