A war of words broke out last night after two of Britain's biggest unions began a £1 million campaign to boycott Peugeot following the firm's decision to close its plant at Ryton in Coventry.
Peugeot said the campaign, which will see the Transport and General Workers' Union and Amicus place adverts in national, regional and trade newspapers today and display posters on hoardings across the country, was disappointing.
The company said it had invested £5 million in retraining some of the 2,300 workers at Ryton and questioned whether the unions' decision to spend £1 million on their fight was a valuable use of money.
The row developed as Peugeot unveiled its new 207 model at more than 300 dealerships across the country.
In Coventry, Ryton workers and union members staged a protest outside Darwin Motors in the Holbrooks area of the city last night, where the new model was unveiled.
They are encouraging consumers to boycott Peugeot and Citroen vehicles after the French firm announced in April it was closing Ryton next summer.
TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley said: "We believe that the wider British public will want to send a powerful message to companies like Peugeot that are prepared to close profitable and productive plants in the UK and lay off loyal, skilled and hard-working employees. A drop in sales will really hit them where it hurts."
He said the action would serve as a warning to any other company which was considering moving production away from the UK, such as Heinz which recently announced plans to close the HP Sauce factory in Aston, Birmingham.
"We are trying to send a strong message, not only to Peugeot, but to HP Sauce and the general public that these companies can't just treat our plants and people like cannon fodder."
John Goodman, spokesman for Peugeot-Citroen, said: "I am hugely disappointed that people see fit to protest in front of that dealership. What they are doing is putting at risk the jobs of the accountants and managers who are just going about their business.
"I am very surprised by the boycott because on Monday the union members at Ryton rejected calls for industrial action saying there was no justification in it. Three days later this action is announced.
"I think the union is spending £1 million doing this. We are spending £5 million re-training and helping the employees at Ryton find new jobs and we think that is a far better use of money."
But Mr Woodley said it was about saving British jobs and the £1 million was well spent.
He added: "This is not about re-training, it is about a company having a conscience and responsibility to a city, to a plant and its workforce that has served them well.
"Being a profitable and productive plant it should have a future and if they can't find the will to build vehicles from this profitable plant, I really hope the buying public realise they shouldn't be selling vehicles here."
Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, said: "Companies that seek to sell in Britain should build in Britain."