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German opposition calls for government crackdown on carmakers in 'dieselgate' scandal

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-06-12 18:57

BERLIN - German opposition parties on Tuesday urged the government to raise the legislative pressure on emissions-cheating carmakers.

The comments by Green party (Gruene) and Left party (Linke) politicians were made in response to the announcement of a mandatory recall of hundreds of thousands of diesel vehicles manufactured by Daimler AG in the latest episode of Germany's longstanding "dieselgate" scandal.

The two parties said that German transport minister Andreas Scheuer's approach was inadequate and demanded more transparency in the government's handling of the scandal.

"Once again, only a fraction of the affected Daimler diesel vehicles is being recalled. The transport minister is hesitating to act resolutely again and has not imposed any fines," Green party deputy parliamentary faction leader Oliver Kirscher complained to German press agency (dpa).

Following a personal conversation with Daimler chief executive officer (CEO) Dieter Zetsche on Monday, the German transport minister Scheuer has ordered the recall of a total of 774,000 diesel vehicles in Europe and 238,000 vehicles in Germany.

Scheuer justified the move on the grounds of illicit technology discovered in the exhaust systems of cars which understates their actual level of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions.

While mounting a legal challenge to the mandatory recall, Daimler said that it would comply with the recall and continue to cooperate with regulatory authorities in matters related to the "dieselgate" scandal.

Nevertheless, Green party politician Kirscher accused Scheuer of having allowed himself to be cajoled by Zetsche into merely demanding relatively cheap and ineffective software updates from Daimler.

As a consequence, Greens parliamentary faction leader Anton Hofreiter also criticized what he saw as the largely symbolic nature of the Daimler recalls. He described promised software upgrades for the affected vehicles in the newspaper "Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung" as a "show" put on by the ministry of transport.

Hofreiter called for a "different transport policy" which would force the automotive industry to pay for comprehensive technical retrofitting to lower NOx emissions, as well as enact a "blue placard" system of diesel driving bans while strengthening the provision of public transportation.

Additionally, Hofreiter told Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung that Scheuer should "publish all manipulations and all related exchanges between the ministry and the automotive industry" in order to bring an end to the current "wheeling and dealing".

Similarly, the Left party's transport policy spokesperson Ingrid Remmers warned on Tuesday that soft-ware updates only amounted to "cosmetic repairs" and the constituted the "cheapest solution" for carmakers.

Remmers expressed disappointment that the German government continued to act as the "guardian angel" of the automotive industry in spite of a seemingly never-ending stream of new revelations of illicit behavior.

Unless policymakers and companies rapidly reversed course, they would ultimately endanger the "future of a key industry of the German economy" and hence "thousands of jobs", Remmers said.

Eric Schweitzer, the president of the Association of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), highlighted in the newspaper Rheinische Post on Tuesday that the ongoing "dieselgate" scandal and looming driving bans were a source of considerable uncertainty to "large parts of the German economy".

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular were negatively affected by the steep depreciation in the value of diesel vehicles and growing difficulties experienced in selling used diesel cars, Schweitzer said.

"The DIHK estimates the associated costs to already amount to more than half a billion euros today," Schweitzer said.

According to the DIHK president, more engagement for clean air in cities and a swift and comprehensive resolution of the "dieselgate" scandal are needed urgently in order to restore trust in the market.

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