VDA President: Prevent patchwork of differing regulations – Air quality already improving noticeably – Measures from diesel summit are effective
“Today’s decision by the Federal Administrative Court does not demand vehicle bans. Instead, the court ruled that banning diesels in German cities is ‘generally permissible’ under the current legislation, but this must be proportionate and only be an option of last resort. It is now up to the municipalities themselves to apply these requirements to bring about further improvements in air quality. The automotive industry also regards as important the court’s clear call to the municipalities to take in particular the concerns of those affected into consideration in their anti-pollution plans. This represents a rejection of general vehicle bans,” explained Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).
“The court has also made it clear that measures must not be rushed, and instead the local conditions have to be weighed up carefully in each case to determine which instruments are expedient and proportionate,” Wissmann said.
Now, he added, politicians had to do everything they could to prevent the development of a patchwork of differing regulations in the cities. It would certainly also be expedient to have a single regulation nationwide. “The many motorists who have felt uncertain for months due to the debate on vehicle bans need legal clarity,” the VDA president underscored.
“The Federal Administrative Court has indeed confirmed in part the rulings of two lower administrative courts, but has not ruled that Stuttgart and Düsseldorf have to introduce vehicle bans,” Wissmann stated. The court has obviously differentiated: until September 1, 2019, banning can only be considered for Euro 4 diesels, while Euro 5 diesels may be subject to prohibition only after that date. Furthermore, it has been made clear that bans do not apply to Euro 6 diesels.
The VDA president stressed: “It is important that on this basis the social impacts of vehicle bans must now be given more weight in the decision-making process. They affect a large number of traders who do not have the financial capacity to renew their fleets overnight.” The authorities will now have to examine carefully the role that prohibitions should play in the ongoing development of anti-pollution plans in consideration of proportionality, according to the VDA. The measurable progress in air quality made during the court proceedings should be taken into account.
With all the measures, Wissmann continued, the cities should remember that individual mobility and business and delivery traffic had to remain intact. There must not be any disproportionate disadvantage for individual groups of road users, he underscored.
The VDA president pointed out that the measures agreed at the National Diesel Forum were already taking effect. The automotive industry works closely with the German Government and the municipalities concerned. Urban nitrogen oxide levels are falling.
“Free software updates for over 5 million Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel cars, the environmental bonuses and the city initiatives, which were launched jointly with the automotive industry, will rapidly bring great improvements in the air quality in cities,” Wissmann said. The software updates alone were leading to an average NO2 reduction per vehicle of 25 to 30 percent. These measures must also be incorporated into municipal anti-pollution plans, he said, adding that software updates have two key advantages over hardware retrofits: they act much faster and do not increase the vehicles’ CO2 emissions. The most recent tests by the ADAC automobile club have shown that retrofitted diesel cars always have higher consumption and thus higher CO2 emissions.
The city initiative focuses on achieving further improvements before the end of this year. Its instruments include the digitization of turban traffic guidance systems, better traffic-light management, avoiding unnecessary traffic, promoting the ramp-up of electric mobility, expanding the urban charging infrastructure and replacing bus and taxi fleets. In addition, the German manufacturers are contributing hundreds of millions of euros to the “Sustainable mobility for the city” fund.
“With these intelligent instruments it is possible to reach the objective – compliance with the limit values in the European air quality directive – even without driving bans,” the VDA president emphasized. The increasing penetration of the fleet by vehicles meeting new exhaust standards will resolve the issue of air quality in any case.