1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Merkel coalition reaches deal on diesel crisis

October 2, 2018

The German government has reportedly found a new compromise aimed at keeping diesel cars on the road. Details of the "complex" plan are set to be revealed in the coming hours.

Andrea Nahles (SPD), Ralph Brinkhaus (CDU) and Alexander Dobrindt (CSU)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen

The German government reached a "highly complex" agreement early on Tuesday on a "concept for clean air and the protection of individual mobility in our cities," in the wake of the country's diesel scandal.

The compromise followed six hours of deliberations in Berlin, as members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling conservatives and their junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), sought to avoid city-level bans on diesel cars.

The agreement will focus on retrofitting old diesel-engine vehicles currently on the road. The  ministers for environment and transport are expected to present the exact details of the plan later on Tuesday.

Treading a fine line: The key challenge for the government was to avoid additional costs for car owners in the drive to lower pollution whilst at the same time protecting jobs in Germany's vital auto industry. At the center of negotiations was the question of whether the industry would be made to foot the full bill for a retrofitting of old cars, or if consumers would have to pitch in as well. Following a range of recent crises over migration and a former spy chief, the coalition government was keen to show it still has the ability to act.

Read more: Angela Merkel's fate may rest on SPD solidarity

Seeking compromise: In the lead-up to discussions, coalition politicians had also butted heads over the best way to deal with the polluting cars. Conservative Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer had called for automakers to provide incentives to diesel car owners to trade them in for newer, cleaner models. The SPD, including Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, favored refitting the old cars with new equipment.

How we got here: It was the culmination of longstanding debate over the fate of German car owners whose vehicles were fitted with manipulative software. Auto giant VW was found to have rigged diesel cars worldwide to lower the apparent level of toxic emissions in a scandal known as 'Dieselgate'. After the scandal broke, and following data showing unhealthy level of diesel toxins in various German cities, German courts paved the way for city driving bans to be instituted. 

City center bans: Hamburg became the first city to close off two main thoroughfares for older diesel cars this year. Stuttgart, the home of Daimler, is planning large-scale bans for 2019. In September, a court ruled that Germany's financial capital Frankfurt must also introduce a ban on diesel vehicles

jcg/rt (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.