For a certain breed of car snob, there is no higher pinnacle of automobile than those rolling off of German assembly lines.
But now, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for the storied manufacturers of her country to start behaving a little more like those in the United States.
A vast number of cars implicated in the massive Volkswagen “Dieselgate” scandal still roam the streets there—and many of them have gone unfixed, either by owner or manufacturer. In the meantime, the vehicles have continued to spew unlawful amounts of emissions into the atmosphere, a situation Merkel recently said was the responsibility of automakers to stop.
“It’s not acceptable that the auto industry is paying a lot of money in America, but makes a fuss over a few hundred Euros here,” the chancellor recently declared at an election rally in the German state of Hesse.
"It’s not acceptable that the auto industry is paying a lot of money in America, but makes a fuss over a few hundred Euros here."—Angela Merkel
Indeed, Volkswagen has paid out more than $25 billion in damages in the U.S. following the revelation that it had installed software in millions of vehicles that would allow them to “cheat” on emissions tests. A large part of that total has gone toward restitution for owners of the more than 580,000 affected cars that made their way to America.
Yet in Europe, where more than 8 million of the tainted vehicles were sold, the company has paid hardly anything in the fallout of the scandal and has offered nothing at all for vehicle owners.
Still, a spate of new regulations passed by Merkel’s cabinet calls for all older vehicles impacted by the diesel scandal to be upgraded accordingly—fixes for which she believes the car maker should be on the financial hook.
And adding fuel to the political fire is the increasingly loud call for the ban of all diesel-powered cars in Germany by 2030.
Berlin has already passed legislation designating a number of “low emissions zones,” while a number of regional courts have held up recently-passed rules that call for specifically strict diesel crackdowns on 15 German cities that significantly surpass emissions levels set by the European Union.
But according to estimates by the German transport ministry, the manufacturer-sponsored tweaks and fixes imagined by Merkel could help keep as many as 2.2 million cars legally on the road.Whether her calls to action will be heralded in the waning days of her chancellorship, however, is yet to be seen.