German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled support for Britain’s plan to ban all internal combustion vehicles Sunday, although she asked European leaders in July to stifle their criticisms of diesel-powered cars.
Germany must fall in line with the rest of Europe as countries work on banning new diesel cars from the roads, Merkel told reporters. “I don’t want to name an exact year,” Merkel said, but she did note that their plans to eliminate gas-powered cars by 2040 “were the right approach.”
Her comments come a month after she warned her British and French counterparts against demonizing automakers like Volkswagen. Merkel is facing a bruising re-election campaign.
“The chancellor has often warned against demonizing diesel motors — diesel motors emit less CO2 and are therefore more environmentally-friendly but of course we need to work honestly and of course we continue to look for other solutions,” Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Merkel, said in July.
The crusade against diesel powered vehicles ratcheted up after Volkswagen was caught in 2015 duping air regulators about the amount of emissions the company’s cars emitted.
VW pleaded guilty in March to placing cheat devices on more than 500,000 vehicles. VW was sentenced to three years of probation and forced to pay billions of dollars in penalties.
The German automaker agreed to spend up to $25 billion in the U.S. to address the scandal, and was tasked with recalling and fixing the tainted vehicles. VW was sentenced to three years of probation and forced to pay billions of dollars in penalties.
Other regulators are warning the EU not to target VW and others.
Elzbieta Bienkowska, the EU’s commissioner for the industry, said during a July interview that there would be no to collapsing the market for diesel cars. Regulators instead should focus on forcing carmakers to reduce their nitrous oxide emissions.
“While I am convinced that we should rapidly head for zero-emission vehicles in Europe, policymakers and industry cannot have an interest in a rapid collapse of the diesel market in Europe because of local driving bans,” Bienkowska said.
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