02 October 2018, News Wires — German carmakers are willing to bear most of the cost of upgrading old diesel cars to reduce air pollution in the country’s cities, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said ahead of make-or-break coalition talks on the issue on Monday.
A way still needs to be found to cover the rest of the cost without drivers having to foot the bill, Scheuer added, as the clock ticked down on a deadline to find a solution to avert driving bans in several cities.
Volkswagen, Germany’s largest carmaker, has agreed to cover 2,400 euros ($2,780) of the estimated 3,000-euro cost of hardware retrofits on its diesel cars, Scheuer said on a live video chat on Instagram.
“Now we have to discuss in the coalition how we handle the gap of 600 euros,” he added.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s grand coalition was due to convene on Monday evening to finalise a plan after a rocky few weeks that has seen support slide to all-time lows for both her conservative party and its Social Democrat (SPD) partners.
Her government has been split on how best to tackle the problem, with Scheuer siding with carmakers in also calling for incentives to encourage owners of older models to trade them in for newer, cleaner ones.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, an SPD member, meanwhile favours hardware retrofits – an option the industry says is only feasible in some models and which would hit fuel consumption and performance in others.
A compromise is likely to feature both, with Scheuer saying Volkswagen was willing to offer trade-in deals worth up to 8,000 euros, BMW 6,000 euros and Daimler up to 5,000 euros, as well as leasing options.
One complaint of German carmakers is that foreign rivals would not be covered by any requirement for retrofits. Volvo of Sweden said it was not working on any such upgrades, but is looking at incentives to encourage customers to trade in diesels for newer, cleaner cars.
That option is also being considered by several foreign carmakers, said Reinhard Zirpel, head of the VDIK car importers’ association. “We have legal, technical and business reservations about hardware upgrades,” he told the Tagesspiegel daily.