Currently reading: Volkswagen boss: German city diesel ban is 'scary and unnecessary'
Herbert Diess says diesel is part of the solution, not the problem
Rachel Burgess
3 mins read
8 March 2018

Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess has reacted to the recent German court ruling that cities can ban the most heavily polluting diesels, describing the move as “a scary picture and totally unnecessary”.

When the ruling was announced late last month, the court also said that Stuttgart should start to impose a year-round ban, while Dusseldorf should also think about bans.

As it stands, the bans would apply to Euro 4 (pre-2006) and older diesel cars, although the inclusion of Euro 5 models is under consideration too.

It is the latest move in a major global backlash against diesel, which started when Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating US exhaust tests.

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Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025, while Copenhagen wants to ban new diesel cars from entering the city as soon as next year. France and the UK will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Diess said: “A few years ago, in Stuttgart, there were 800 hours per year when it was above the air quality limit. Last year, it was three hours. The situation is continuously improving because everything is getting cleaner."

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He continued: “We had 90 cities that were above the limits three years ago. Last year it was 70, and 50 of those are very close to limits. Which means that they will fall under those limits this year or next year.

“What’s left is 20 cities where air quality is poor in very localised areas. These are heavily loaded, narrow roads with no wind or airflow. If you then have a traffic jam, you accumulate levels which are really not healthy any more. And that’s where we have to work. In those cities, probably three or four streets have a problem. And even if you don’t do anything, that will go away in two or three years, because of the renovation of the fleet.”


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Diess (pictured below) also flagged public transport as a major issue, with buses being, on average, 13 years old.

He added that the air quality issue is one “we can handle”. He is far more concerned about CO2 and climate change. “What we have to do is more renovation of the car fleet, which is why we’ve bought back 160,000 cars already and scrapped them.”

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He said he wanted to “get the decision off the table” on diesel bans in cities. He highlighted that the ruling emphasised that the move was only a worse-case scenario. “I think we can avoid it,” he said.

“We will be able to sort the situation. I would make one of the four lanes found in many cities exclusively for electric vehicles and the thing is solved basically. You invest in public transport; it’s easy to solve.”

Despite the ongoing demonisation of diesel – reflected in a year-on-year drop of 24% and 20% in diesel car sales in Germany and UK respectively in February – Diess said he still believes diesel will be the number one option for long-distance drivers for five or 10 years yet.

He added: “We need diesel to be able to cope with our CO2 fleet targets. We think diesel is part of the solution, not the problem.”

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8 March 2018

Its all in the last paragraph, isnt it

He added: “We need diesel to be able to cope with our CO2 fleet targets

And thats it. They make cars 'just' clean enough to pass a test, and thats good enough. who cares what it actually does in the real world. I know the most modern diesels are much betterthan the junk they were selling 10 years ago, but just look at how badly they age. Why should we believe the modern ones wont be just as bad as they get older. Unless they can convince the world that diesel vehicles will be clean from the day of manufacure, until the day they are scrapped, under all driving conditions, the only thing to do is not buy diesels. 

Fleet CO2 targets are a problem, and we will all have to pay more for our cars if the manufacturers get fined for not meeting them. Perhaps our anger should be focused more on the idiots who created the fleet average figures without working out how to reach them without flooding the world with diesels.



8 March 2018

 Most Cities have a pollution problem, and Deisel powered Vehicles are part of it, even Petrol plays a part in it too.

8 March 2018

Whatever the rights and wrongs of these arguments are, you'd think VW group management would keep a low profile rather than commenting publicly. But then, they do consider themselves as the most important group in the automotive sector.

8 March 2018 hit the nail on the head. It takes a boatload of chutzpah and arrogance for any executive of Volkswagen to speak agains a Diesel ban. What the hell was he thinking?

8 March 2018

What Diess said is totally right, but, like you say, coming from VW, who effectively started the anti diesel ball rolling, it doesnt sound good.

8 March 2018

There seems to be an exceedingly strange management culture at VW.  It is as if they think the world owes them a living and should accept without question anything they say.  This is despite the fact that their actions compromise their credibility.

One of the most amazing examples occured when Deutsche Post and DHL decided to develop their own electric delivery van and VW ceo Matthias Muller said that he was 'annoyed beyond measure' that they hadn't beaten a path to VW's door first. In this day and age you don't just hold court and expect your customers to come begging for product.

8 March 2018

Experts on diesel...... pfffft!




8 March 2018

I'd say they've done pretty well.

They had a fine to pay in the US on a relatively small number of cars.

The EU hasnt got the might or will to do anything

Their sales have hardly plummeted. 

Who are the mugs??

8 March 2018

From the boss of the company who's actions are largely responsible for the current anti-diesel frenzy, this is the funniest thing I have read all week.



8 March 2018

Don’t know about Germany, but in the UK the government is utterly failing to deal with urban air pollution. Climate change is the bigger problem but endless consumerism is not the answer.

Historically, in the UK, diesel accounted for about 25% of new car sales, but then jumped to 50% largely due to rather perverse tax incentives.

Is it really a bad thing if they now slip back to their previous level? For someone doing 20k miles a year, diesel still makes sense. For someone doing less than 10k miles a year, particularly largely in urban environments, they do not. 


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