In public, American automakers are trying to put on a chipper new green face. In private:

Chrysler’s chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched a fierce attack on “quasi-hysterical Europeans” and their “Chicken Little” attitudes to global warming.

Mr Jolissaint was speaking at a private breakfast where the chief economists of the “Big Three” US car firms presented their forecasts for auto industry sales this year.

Neither Ford’s chief economist Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, nor General Motors’ chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem, who were on the panel with Mr Jolissaint, questioned his assertion.