Ministers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives attacked on Thursday a proposal by the Social Democrats to charge automakers who fail to provide diesel hardware retrofits, opening a new battle front in their fragile coalition government.
The government outlined strategies previously this month to curb pollution from diesel vehicles by asking automakers to offer owners trade-in incentives and hardware fixes in an attempt to avert driving bans in main cities such as Berlin and Hamburg.
But the co-governing center-left Social Democrats (SPD) want to take step closer and fine automakers that fail to repair polluting diesel-engined vehicles.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, a member of her Bavarian CSU allies, both declined the idea, saying it was probably illegal.
“Fines are justified under German law when someone has breached his legal obligations. But I have doubts whether this path is even feasible under constitutional law,” Altmaier informed Deutschlandfunk radio.
Scheuer, in an interview with daily newspaper Bild, turned down accusations that the conservatives were too comfortable with Germany’s auto sector, which employs more than a million people and whose exports generate a large chunk of the nation’s output.
“I’m not the spokesman of the car industry,” Scheuer stated, calling on the companies to regain lost trust.