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PREVIEW German NGO takes 10 cities to court over VW diesel emissions By Frank Christiansen, dpa

Europe
20.01.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
German environmentalists want Volkswagen cars tainted by the emissions scandal to be removed from the roads. An NGO is taking 10 cities across Germany to court for failing to withdraw the operating licences of the vehicles concerned.

Dusseldorf (dpa) - Environmental Action Germany (DUH) is suing 10 German cities for failing to take action in the diesel emissions scandal that hit Germany‘s auto industry, bringing the case before the administrative court in the western city of Dusseldorf.

The first 10 charges will be heard starting Wednesday. The NGO is demanding that the official vehicle licensing centres take cars off the road that have been found to contain emissions-cheating software.

The scandal first came to light in September 2015, when the US Environmental Protection Agency accused Volkswagen of installing software in diesel vehicles to fudge the output of toxic nitrogen oxides on emissions testing.

Since admitting to the cheating scheme, VW has been forced to pay some 24 billion dollars in settlements and damages, including a 2.8-billion-dollar criminal fine.

German carmakers have also been hit, but turnover and profits in the sector have continued their upward path.

In November, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to provide municipal leaders with more than the already-promised 1 billion euros (1.2 billion dollars) as part of a bid by the government and the auto industry to counteract the effects of the diesel emissions.

Merkel made the pledge at a meeting of federal, state and local leaders in Berlin, saying she wanted it discussed as part of negotiations to form a new government.

The DUH will argue before the court that all VW vehicles with type EA 189 EU5 engines should have been taken off the road. The various vehicle licensing centres had failed to withdraw the operating licenses of the vehicles concerned, the DUH lawyers are to argue.

The other cities targeted by the legal action are Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Cologne, Mainz, Munich, Stuttgart and Wiesbaden.

"Through this legal action, we aim to ensure that the air quality in these cities is not harmed further as a result of the continued operation of the Volkswagen company‘s cheat diesel," DUH chief executive Juergen Resch said.

According to DUH, that VW has offered updated software is irrelevant on two grounds: Firstly, it is not clear whether the update restores operational legality. Secondly, many VW owners have not installed the new programme.

City authorities in Dusseldorf said some 600 vehicles would be affected by license withdrawal in line with the court action. They also shifted the responsibility for the vehicles to the KBA, Germany‘s federal vehicle licensing authority, saying that withdrawing the operating licence lay with them.

DUH has rejected that argument.

"We see things differently," Remo Klinger, the lawyer representing DUH said.

The KBA approved vehicle models, Klinger said, but the illegal switch-off mechanism was not part of the approved model. This meant that the city registration centres around the country were responsible, because the vehicles did not correspond with the KBA‘s licensed model.

"We can‘t understand why vehicles with inadequate emissions systems are still driving around cities," Klinger said. "With inadequate brakes there would have been a recall a long time ago. It stinks to high heaven that the air is so polluted."

In response to a call from the DUH, Germans have now proposed setting up more than 1,300 NOx measurement points, most of them in major urban centres.

DUH experts intend to measures NOx concentrations at 500 locations across Germany in February. "Clearly this action has struck a nerve in the people suffering from diesel emissions," Resch told dpa.

 

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