Mercedes-Benz and Audi have announced recalls for nearly four million diesel cars across Europe in a bid to avoid fines and vehicle bans in European cities.
Major car manufacturers are working with the German government on a “diesel rescue plan” to prevent widespread bans being implemented on diesel cars, according to Automotive News.
Daimler has announced a voluntary recall of more than three million Mercedes-Benz diesel cars and vans across Europe for a software update designed to reduce NOx pollution. Unlike its embattled rival Volkswagen, Daimler has made no rash promises that performance and economy will not be affected by the fix.
Daimler had already issued a recall for more than 250,000 of its compact models (A-Class, B-Class, CLA-Class) and V-Class passenger vans, but the new recall massively expands this to cover nearly every diesel Mercedes-Benz car sold since about 2009.
Audi has today announced a voluntary recall of 850,000 cars powered by its V6 and V8 diesel engines acros Europe and other markets. The recall will also affect models from Volkswagen, such as the Touareg, and Porsche, such as the Cayenne, powered by these engines. Audi is also claiming that the recall is for a software update to reduce NOx pollution. These new 850,000 vehicles are in addition to the Audi four-cylinder diesel cars already recalled under the original Dieselgate scandal.
The German sources who spoke to Automotive News claim that the car industry should be able to reduce NOx pollution by up to 20% with software changes. However, it will almost certainly require reducing performance and/or reducing fuel economy to achieve this result.
The future of diesel cars is now at risk
These huge recalls are partly a PR attempt for the two car companies to get ahead of a looming crisis for diesel cars. The thinking appears to be that it is better to voluntarily recall the vehicles than being told to do so by governments.
The German government has convened a summit of European car manufacturers for early August. It will be made clear to all manufacturers that they will need to take immediate and substantial action to avoid their diesel cars being banned from entering German cities.
This week’s recall announcements from Mercedes and Audi are likely to be the first of many. The German summit will include key figures from all the major car companies, and it is almost certain that other major car companies will have to make similar plans for recalling their diesel cars. The numbers of diesel cars recalled could quickly reach the tens of millions.
The latest Audi and Mercedes-Benz recalls cover diesel cars built to comply with both Euro-5 and Euro-6 emissions regulations. These are the very vehicles touted by the industry as being the “cleanest” diesel cars ever built.
Industry groups like the SMMT have long argued that current Euro-6 diesel cars present no problems for urban environments and that car manufacturers are being unfairly demonised. Yet a recall of another four million diesel cars, with potentially millions more to follow, suggests that there is no end in sight to the current diesel woes.
Sales of new diesel cars have collapsed in the UK over the last three months, with registrations down 27% in April, 20% in May and 14% in June. If this trend continues, it will start to have significant ramifications for consumers, car manufacturers, finance companies and car dealers.