BERLIN (Reuters) - German cities are able to ban the most polluting diesel cars after a landmark court ruling, allowing them to decide the extent to which any curbs should be implemented if at all.
Tuesday’s ruling by Germany’s highest administrative court in Leipzig is expected to further drive the shift away from combustion engines and could force carmakers to pay to improve exhaust systems.
Here are some of the possible consequences for German automakers and drivers after the ruling which may hit the value of 12 million vehicles in Europe’s largest car market.
Any driving bans would probably affect vehicles equipped with Euro-5 emissions-control technology and older models. Of the 15 million diesel cars on Germany’s roads last year, about 2.7 million were fitted with the latest Euro-6 standard, which has applied to all new cars sold since September 2015, according to the KBA motor vehicle watchdog.
The court said there will be no right to financial compensation for car owners in the wake of possible driving bans but it called for “proportionality”.
Possible bans should affect only older models with the highest emissions and curbs must be accompanied by “sufficient exceptions” for groups relying heavily on diesel cars and vans including city residents and tradespeople such as delivery, repair and emergency workers, it said.
Authorities in about 70 German cities including Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart which were found to have excess levels of toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) have started deliberating if and how they will adjust clean air programs to comply with the ruling.
Hamburg said it would start implementing limits on diesel vehicles from the end of April. Stuttgart said it would take about six months to redraw anti-pollution strategies before deciding on concrete steps.
Civil movements and environmentalists have reinforced calls on the government to end their cosy ties with automakers and force the industry to swallow the costs of upgrading diesel exhaust cleaning systems.
Carmakers have so far rejected costly hardware changes, saying retrofitted vehicles would end up consuming more fuel and emitting more carbon dioxide.
The court made clear that uniform nationwide rules on tackling diesel pollution are not necessary. But with the ruling seen as a precedent for all cities in Germany, it will revive discussion about introducing ways to label cleaner diesel cars, for instance via so-called blue badges.
Germany’s would-be coalition parties, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, have made no provisions in their hard-fought policy platform for a blue badge.
Environmentalists said blue badges are inexpensive and easy to implement while critics including Germany’s transport minister have said they would expropriate millions of drivers.
Diesel car resale values in Germany have held broadly stable in the aftermath of the Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) 2015 emissions scandal but have been declining since last July while values for gasoline vehicles started to rise at about the same time, data by market researcher Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH showed.
With driving bans now more likely, analysts expect this trend to continue, also backed by rising diesel new car sales across Europe and the equivalent drop in gasoline registrations.
Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Alexander Smith