FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German industry said a diesel car ban would hit tradesmen and small businesses hard and harm the country’s export-led auto industry.
After a court ruling on Tuesday, towns and municipalities said they would introduce bans for older, polluting vehicles only as a last resort - although Hamburg said it would immediately start work on implementing restrictions.
The police union warned it did not have capacity to enforce any bans.
Environmental organizations and left-wing party Die Linke welcomed the Leipzig court’s decision, but many said the ruling would punish ordinary people for the failures of the automotive industry and politicians.
Germany’s highest federal administrative court ruled earlier that German cities can ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars from their streets.
Below are reactions to the decision.
Managing Director Gerd Landsberg, speaking to SWR radio:
“The topic of driving bans is now on the agenda. But the expectation that driving bans will come tomorrow will not be fulfilled.” He added that the judges had made clear that driving bans were only the last resort when other measures for cleaner air could no longer help.
Managing director Joachim Lang:
“Nobody wants to reduce the protection of health in our country, but we should also take account of the property of millions of diesel owners. Diesel vehicles are widely deployed in our business fleets; companies need legal and planning security. This threatens to hit small firms quickly to the core.”
GERMAN ASSOCIATION FOR SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED FIRMS BVMW
President Mario Ohoven:
“The decision of the Federal Administrative Court to allow legal diesel bans in cities endangers the existence of many small and medium-sized companies. The Mittelstand (companies) should not carry the can for either the failures of politicians or the manipulations of carmakers. Driving bans are equivalent to an expropriation of business assets.”
President Matthias Wissmann argued for continuing self-regulation of the industry:
“Air quality in cities is being improved quickly and significantly with free software updates of Euro-5 and Euro-6 diesel cars, environmental subsidies and city initiatives that have begun together with the car industry.”
German motorist club ADAC said it expected bans to remain a last resort, as part of packages of measures to improve air quality. It said the federal government must now quickly pass legislation allowing hardware upgrades for vehicles with Euro-5 emissions standards, which would make bans unnecessary.
Chief Rainer Wendt, speaking to the Heilbronner Stimme and Mannheimer Morgen newspapers:
“It’s clear that there’s no way our capacities will stretch to control driving bans. We have to concentrate on the important things and we already don’t have the personnel for that.”
“In a word: police controls for driving bans - forget it.”
ALTERNATIVE FOR GERMANY (RIGHT-WING POLITICAL PARTY)
Party leader Alexander Gauland: “This course of action against diesel engines will affect the strong exporting German car industry above all.”
“A high-technology sector in which Germany is a world leader is being destroyed. In this way, German jobs will be massively threatened.”
DIE LINKE: (LEFT-WING POLITICAL PARTY)
Party co-leader Bernd Riexinger:
“Automotive Chancellor Angela Merkel and total failure (Transport Minister) Alexander Dobrindt have permitted the car industry, as its chief lobbyists, to live outside the law. For far too long, the car industry has lived in this comfortable arrangement and assumed that laws are only for others. Now this seems to be over.”
Roman Zitzelsberger, district chief of IG Metall Baden-Wuerttemberg:
“There is no question that the air in Stuttgart and other inner cities must improve and pollution limits must be adhered to. For that, however, we need effective and above all controllable measures, and not to punish people driving properly approved cars.”
Spokesman Niklas Schinerl:
“At last the way is clear to effectively protect people’s health. Every city can now enforce the right of its inhabitants to clean air by itself. Particularly contaminated cities must now ensure that dirty diesels with their poisonous gases stay outside.”
Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Maria Sheahan; Editing by Keith Weir