Volkswagen Group, the world’s largest carmaker by sales, admitted to
manipulating exhaust system testing results in more than 10 million
vehicles as early as September 2015 and has since had to pay more
than four billion euros in legal settlements with customers there.
In Germany, the Brunswick State Prosecution has already ordered the
mother corporation to pay one billion euros in fine to plaintiffs
during the summer in a similar case to the one now concluded at
Nevertheless, Justice Minister Katarina Barley has called for an
overhaul of German law which would allow judicial authorities to
punish corporations for criminal wrongdoing more effectively rather
than just being able to prosecute individual members of staff.
Referring to the "dieselgate" scandal specifically, Barley argued
that the government should create possibilities to take a more
aggressive stance against businesses where fraud or corruption were
"systemic" issues. (1 euro = 1.16 U.S. dollars).
Opel premises raided by German
BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) --
German police raided premises of the Ruesselsheim-based
carmaker Opel in the course of ongoing "dieselgate" investigations
A spokesperson for the Hesse state criminal police office
confirmed that "police measures" were underway at Opel as of Monday
morning without providing further details about the operation.
The subsidiary of the French PSA Group was first named as
potentially being implicated in fraudulent diesel emissions cheating
practices during a transport ministry hearing back in July but,
unlike domestic rivals Volkswagen and Daimler, has otherwise
previously evaded formal judicial scrutiny in the affair.
In a statement in reaction to the searches, Opel said that probes
had been conducted at its corporate locations in Russelsheim and
Kaiserslautern "in the framework of an investigatory procedure
concerned with the subject of emissions."
Nevertheless, the automotive company insisted that all its
vehicles complied with relevant regulations.
According to the German newspaper BILD, around 95,000 vehicles in
total of the Opel Insignia, Zafira and Cascada models built during
the years 2012, 2014 and 2017 are affected by the latest development
in the German "dieselgate" scandal.
In the ministry of transport hearing in July, Opel was asked to
provide information about the function of exhaust system defeat
devices in three of its models.
A spokesperson for the ministry said at the time that it was too
early to reach conclusions about the "legitimacy" of the technology
The federal government in Germany has recently unveiled a "dieselgate"
policy package aimed at preventing looming driving bans with
alternative measures including fleet renewal incentives and
so-called "hardware upgrades" of affected vehicles to reduce their
NOx emissions levels.
Opel is among the majority of carmakers who continue to resist
calls for technical retrofitting measures on the grounds that they
are economically and technologically unfeasible.
German minister calls for
BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) --
German Justice Minister Katarina Barley called on
Friday for an overhaul of the law which would allow authorities to
punish corporations for criminal wrongdoing rather than just being
able to prosecute individual members of staff.
Speaking to German newspaper Handelsblatt, Barley explained that
criminal offenses would still be attributed to individuals under the
However, it would also become possible to impose sanctions
against companies if they were found to be structured in ways which
aid and abet criminal behavior.
"In cases where fraud or corruption is systemic, there should be
possibilities in the future to charge the company itself," Barley
The German ruling parties had pledged to establish provisions for
new corporate fines of up to 10 percent of annual gross revenue for
companies with more than 100 million euros (115.7 million U.S.
dollars) in revenue.
The ministry of justice wants to present concrete proposals to
enact such legislation within the next months and is treating the
policy as a "matter of priority" for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s
"A right to sanction companies only makes sense if the measures
hurt. It must have a deterring character," Barley said.
Barely referred specifically to the ongoing "dieselgate" scandal
as an example.
"Whoever behaves incorrectly must be liable and hence also pay,"
The Braunschweig State Prosecution Office currently lists 49
suspects in its investigations into diesel emissions-cheating
practices by German car makers.
The German Environmental Action (DUH) lobby group and politicians
have recently called for emissions-cheating car manufacturers to be
fined after a court ruled that a partial diesel driving ban was
needed in Berlin from 2019 onwards to improve air quality in the
According to Handelsblatt, DUH president Juergen Resch welcomed
Barley’s reform proposals on Friday.
"We finally need a criminal law for corporations like most
Western countries already have," Resch said.
By contrast, the German Federation of Industries (BDI) told the
newspaper it did "not support the creation of a corporate criminal
The industrial lobby group warned that sanctions would have an
adverse effect on companies as well customers, suppliers and
German environmental lobby
group backs SPD calls for fining carmakers
BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) --
Carmakers should be fined by authorities in Germany
for their domestic emissions-cheating practices in the "dieselgate"
scandal, Axel Friedrich of the Environmental Action Germany (DUH)
told Xinhua on Wednesday.
"The automotive industry has made massive profits while poisoning
people by selling cars which were labelled incorrectly."
This behavior, Friedrich argues, "must be punished with financial
"I cannot understand the position of the transport minister to
handle the automotive industry with kid gloves."
The comments by the director of the Emissions Control Institute
of DUH were made in response to calls by the German Social Democrats
(SPD) on Wednesday for emissions-cheating carmakers to be fined
after a court ruled that a partial diesel driving ban was needed in
Berlin from 2019 onwards to improve air quality in the German
"Whoever cheats should also pay for it. Maybe this way the
automotive managers will finally see reason," SPD parliamentary
faction vice-president Soeren Bartol told the German press agency.
Bartol argued that transport minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU)
should fine carmakers 5,000 euros (5,762 U.S. dollars) per
manipulated vehicle in the diesel emissions scandal unless
automotive executives agree to carry out technical retrofitting
measures (so called "hardware upgrades") at their own expense.
Similarly, finance minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) said that the ball
was now in the court of carmakers who would either have to finance
hardware upgrades fully or offer attractive incentives for fleet
The SPD forms part of Germany’s ruling "grand coalition" with the
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) in
Berlin and has repeatedly described such technical retrofitting as
being imperative to avoid outright driving bans.
The Berlin Administrative Court ruled on Tuesday that bans on
older diesel vehicles were required in at least 11 heavily-congested
areas of the capital by 2019 to ensure its compliance with European
Union (EU) clean air legislation.
Berlin is now set to follow in the footsteps of Hamburg,
Stuttgart and Frankfurt where driving bans were already ordered by
courts earlier on the basis of a landmark ruling by the Federal
Administrative Court which first enabled German cities to take these
drastic steps unilaterally to lower urban nitrogen oxide (NOx)
DUH would have preferred an area-wide ban, rather than entry
restrictions for diesel vehicles on specific streets in Berlin,
according to Friedrich.
Nevertheless, he welcomed the partial ban announced on Tuesday as
a "signal that people cannot continue to be burdened with high air
German prosecutors are in the process of investigating dozens of
automotive executives and employees for their suspected role in
installing illicit defeat devices to understate NOx emissions from
diesel cars of the Euro4 and Euro5 motor generations.
According to the recent testing conducted independently by the
DUH, however, even the newest Euro6 diesel motor types still release
5.5 times more NOx emissions on average than permitted under EU law.
DUH president Juergen Resch told dpa on Wednesday that the spread
of driving bans from Hamburg to Berlin had raised the pressure on
the "grand coalition" to develop a nation-wide "Blue Placard"
marking scheme to identify diesel vehicles to enter the affected
The federal government has so far resisted calls for such a
universal regulation and has instead proposed fleet renewal
incentives and voluntary hardware upgrades by carmakers as a means
to avert the imposition of driving bans.
German cities urge government
to implement new diesel measures swiftly
BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) --
German municipal authorities urged the country’s
federal government on Thursday to act fast in implementing a new "dieselgate"
policy package which was recently unveiled.
"The implementation must now occur swiftly and unbureaucratically",
Gerd Landsberg, executive director of the German Association of
Towns and Municipalities, told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND)
The measures were agreed by the ruling "grand coalition"
following lengthy cabinet consultations and aim at reducing nitrogen
oxide emissions (NOx) in urban centers without necessitating
outright diesel driving bans.
Landsberg emphasized that the success of the measures would
hereby also hinge on the willingness of German carmakers to "assume
their responsibility, including financially" with regards to
technical retrofitting of affected vehicles.
The first-ever inclusion of technical retrofitting, or so-called
"hardware upgrades", in which the government has dubbed the "concept
for clean air and the protection of individual mobility in our
cities", marks a major shift of tone in Berlin’s response to the
ongoing "dieselgate" crisis.
Hardware upgrades have been described as essential to achieve a
significant reduction in NOx emissions without requiring driving
bans by German minister for the environment Svenja Schulze and
several national environmental groups.
However, these upgrades had been previously resisted by transport
minister Andreas Scheuer as well as the affected carmakers.
Volkswagen and Daimler have now surrendered their opposition to
hardware upgrades on the premise that a certified procedure is
created for car garages to facilitate the process.
BMW, Opel as well as several international car manufacturers are
still refusing to back the German government on the issue.
Additionally, Volkswagen has made its support for the most
contentious part of the policy package conditional on the ability of
Chancellor Angela Merkel to ensure the participation of all
carmakers in the retrofitting programs.
Helmut Dedy, secretry general of the German Association of
Cities, sharply criticized the lasting hesitancy of the automotive
industry to cooperate with policymakers in lowering NOx pollution on
"It is incomprehensible that a producer announces a few hours
after the compromise that they will not participate in
retrofitting", Dedy told the newspaper Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung.
Although he was generally confident that "grand coalition"
concept would improve air quality, Dedy noted that it was unclear
how quickly the new measures would produce concrete results and
whether they would suffice to avert looming driving bans.
Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) has estimated that
diesel cars are responsible for more than 50 percent of NOx
emissions in the country.
NOx levels currently exceed binding limits set in EU clean air
legislation in several major German cities, prompting the European
Commission to file an ongoing lawsuit against the federal government
in Berlin at the European Court of Justice.
German government reaches
agreement on ‘dieselgate’ policy response
BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) --
The ruling grand coalition in
Germany achieved a breakthrough in protracted negotiations over how
to avert looming diesel driving bans in cities, the leaders of the
Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christian Social Union (CSU) and
German Social Democrats (SPD) announced on Tuesday.
Following the conclusion of a special cabinet session which began
on Monday afternoon and dragged on into the early morning hours, the
federal government said it would unveil a package of measures geared
towards lowering harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
The high-level talks were recently scheduled by Chancellor Angela
Merkel to resolve a long-standing dispute among her ministers over
how to improve urban air quality in Germany without having to impose
outright bans on diesel vehicles.
According to SPD leader Andrea Nahles, the policy package now
agreed upon includes a provision for contentious technical
retrofitting measures, or so-called "hardware upgrades", for cars
affected by the diesel emissions scandal.
Hardware upgrades have repeatedly been described as essential to
achieve a significant reduction in NOx emissions by environment
minister Svenja Schulze and several non-governmental environmental
groups, but were previously resisted by transport minister Andreas
Scheuer and car makers on the grounds of cost and liability issues.
The German Environment Agency (UBA) has estimated that diesel
cars are responsible for more than 50 percent of NOx emissions in
NOx levels currently exceed binding limits set in European Union
(EU) clean air legislation in several major German cities, prompting
the European Commission to file an lawsuit against the federal
government in Berlin at the European Court of Justice (CJEU).
Earlier, Scheuer said his top priority was consequently to ensure
that customers were offered financial incentives to purchase new,
Scheuer’s focus on "fleet renewal" was criticized by the SPD,
however, on the grounds that they would only benefit Germans who
could afford to purchase a new car.
Although car makers already offered premiums of up to 10,000
euros (11,543 U.S. dollars) per new purchase to customers in 2017,
the positive effect on air quality is seen as insufficient by the
government to prevent driving bans.
Recent emissions testing conducted independently by Environmental
Action Germany (DUH) has found that even the newest Euro6 diesel
motor types release 5.5 times more NOx emissions on average than
permitted under EU law.
Citing a document listing the resolutions of the cabinet session,
the German press agency (dpa) reported that further fleet renewal
premiums, as well new retro-fitting options would be offered to
motorists in areas most affected by NOx pollution.
These include cities such as Frankfurt and Stuttgart where courts
have recently ordered the imposition of diesel driving bans.
In the event that driving bans can still not be averted, and as a
last resort to ensure compliance with EU clean air legislation, the
government wants to create uniform regulations on the access of
diesel vehicles to affected cities.
Dpa also quoted insider information that taxpayers were likely to
have to shoulder at least a small share of the envisioned technical
Questioned whether the powerful automotive industry would support
what the government has dubbed the "concept for clean air and the
protection of individual mobility in our cities", Nahles said on
Tuesday that it remained to be seen.
Nevertheless, the "dieselgate" breakthrough was cautiously
welcomed by consumer protection groups.
"If (the package) includes free retrofitting for car owners with
guarantees and generous discounts, that would be a step forward,"
Klaus Mueller, the president of the Federation of German Consumer
Organizations (vzbv), told press.
The transport minister and his cabinet colleague Schulze are both
scheduled to present details of the legislative concept to the
public on Tuesday afternoon.
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