German govt, carmakers try to avert diesel bans

BERLIN • Germany's government and car bosses have agreed to overhaul engine software on 5.3 million diesel cars to cut pollution and try to repair the industry's battered reputation.

However, environmentalists said the plan - almost two years after Volkswagen admitted to cheating in United States diesel emissions tests - was too little, too late, and vowed to press ahead with legal action aimed at banning polluting vehicles.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has come under mounting pressure for not doing enough to crack down on vehicle pollution and for being too close to powerful carmakers. The issue has become a central campaign topic ahead of next month's national election, prompting the government to summon car bosses to try and avert moves in some cities to force bans on diesel vehicles.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the agreement was only a first step, warning that bans on diesel vehicles could not be ruled out and urging carmakers to focus more on consumers. Ministers have been wary of angering the owners of 15 million diesel vehicles and damaging an industry that is the country's biggest exporter and provides about 800,000 jobs.

Politicians stopped short of demanding costly mechanical modifications to engine and exhaust systems and said they had agreed for now on software updates for 5.3 million cars.

"We expect a new culture of responsibility from carmakers," Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, from the centre-left Social Democrats, told a news conference, adding that the software updates were just a first step in cutting emissions.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2017, with the headline 'German govt, carmakers try to avert diesel bans'. Print Edition | Subscribe