German automaker Daimler has announced it is to recall millions of Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles. The move comes as German authorities investigate the firm for allegedly cheating on emissions tests.
Daimler is set to invest some 220 million euro ($254 million) into the recall, which would be free for car owners, the company said on Tuesday. The automaker is seeking to improve its emissions performance in the wake of a public debate over the future of diesel.
The voluntary recall covers almost all of the diesel vehicles made under EU5 and EU6 emission standards, or some three million Mercedes-Benz cars across Europe.
"We are convinced that diesel engines will continue to be a fixed element of the drive-system mix, not least due to their low CO2 emissions," the company quoted its CEO Dieter Zetsche as saying on Tuesday.
'Dieselgate' looms large
The timing of the decision is telling, as Daimler currently faces allegations of cheating emissions tests on their diesel cars. Previously, rival Volkswagen suffered a massive setback when it confessed to manipulating results in laboratory conditions, making their cars appear more eco-friendly. The cars then exceeded the reported pollution values in everyday driving.
When the Volkswagen scandal broke in September 2015, Zetsche said that manipulation of such magnitude would "not be possible" in his company. Last week, however, the German Transport Ministry announced it would examine Daimler's cars amid reports their results were altered in a similar fashion. Also, German authorities have been investigating the company's employees on suspicion of fraud and misleading advertising of diesel-powered vehicles.
The company, however, denied allegations of tampering and said it was cooperating with the investigation.
Parallel to the government's probe, a German court is this week set to decide on banning or retrofitting diesel cars to reduce pollution.
"The public debate on diesel is creating uncertainty - especially for our customers," Dieter Zetsche said. "This is why we decided to take further action, in order to reassure drivers of diesel cars and boost their trust in motoring technology."
Additionally, Daimler announced it plans to "quickly" introduce a brand new line of diesel engines.
dj/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)