What diesel engine technology needs, says Ford Motor Co. Chief Operating Officer Nick Scheele, is some good PR.

That's why he plans to bring a fleet of European diesel-powered Focuses on a U.S. tour that includes availability to general media and visits to environment-sensitive locales such as California and Washington, D.C. The mission is to show that the diesel is not “the ogre of myth,” Scheele says at SAE's diesel-engine panel discussion.

This doesn't mean that Ford is committed to bringing diesel-powered light vehicles — popular in Europe — to market in the U.S. “Frankly, we're sitting on the fence,” he says. Ford, like most auto makers, sees such an idea as too risky.

But Ford is willing to put itself out front when it comes to lending support to the technology and leading an education push designed to culminate in public acceptance of the diesel by 2007, when tougher low-sulfur fuel regulations are set to take effect.

Accompanying Scheele on the panel were representatives from the U.S. and German governments, diesel engine manufacturers and the oil industry — all of whom appeared to be so aligned on the benefits of modern diesel technology that much of the audience was left wondering what possibly could be the holdup.