Germany’s SPD calls for fines for diesel carmakers if necessary

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany should fine carmakers if they fail to fix dirty diesel vehicles, a senior member of the Social Democrat (SPD) coalition party said on Wednesday, accusing the transport minister of being too close to the auto industry.

FILE PHOTO: Cars are seen at Kaiserdamm street, which could be affected by a court hearing on case seeking diesel cars ban in Berlin, Germany, October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

“The kid gloves need to come off,” said Carsten Schneider, a senior figure in the center-left SPD’s parliamentary group, adding that carmakers could be fined up to 5,000 euros ($5,7600) per vehicle if they did not carry out remedial work on older diesel cars.

The German government last week outlined plans to cut pollution from diesels by asking carmakers to offer owners trade-in incentives and hardware fixes in an attempt to avert further driving bans in major cities.

But its efforts were dealt a blow by a Berlin court ruling on Tuesday that ordered Germany’s capital to ban older diesel vehicles from some of its roads.

The comments from Schneider highlighted strains between parties in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition over the issue.

FILE PHOTO: Cars are seen at Leipziger Strasse street, which could be affected by a court hearing on case seeking diesel cars ban in Berlin, Germany, October 8, 2018. The word reads ‘air pollution monitoring.’ REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

Schneider said he had doubts whether Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, a member of Merkel’s conservative allies from Bavaria, was treating the issue with the necessary urgency.

“The transport minister should not behave as though he was the country’s chief car salesman but rather like someone who represents the interests of those who have bought diesel cars,” he said.

Merkel on Wednesday endorsed a hard-fought EU compromise deal for a 35 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from cars by 2030, despite protests from her country’s own carmakers, who said the target was unrealistic and that pursuing it would cost jobs.

There has been disagreement within the German government on balancing demands to make carmakers pay for the cost of reducing pollution in the wake of an emissions scandal and calls to protect the auto industry, the country’s biggest exporter.

While the SPD has called for binding measures to make carmakers fix older diesels, Merkel’s conservatives favor a softer solution, offering car owners a discount if they wish to trade in their diesel cars for new ones.

($1 = 0.8679 euros)

Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Keith Weir

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