After weeks of intensifying scrutiny from lawmakers and law enforcement, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks is issuing a voluntary recall notice on 3 million cars across to fix the excess emissions from their diesel engines.
Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler-Benz said it would recall “nearly all” of its diesel powered cars in the coming weeks for a fix that could cost it an estimated 220 million euros ($253 million).
The news comes after a number of reports claiming that Daimler, like Volkswagen before it, had equipped its cars with software designed to cheat testing cycles by running the engine more cleanly in lab conditions than it would normally on the road.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung had reported last week that Daimler had sold over 1 million such cars between 2008 and 2016. Whereas the company claimed that its filters removed 95%-99% of harmful nitrous oxides, in actual road testing the figure was as low as 35%, it said. It cited sources close to the state attorneys who had raided Daimler offices in May. The claims led the German parliamentary committee investigating the ‘Dieselgate’ affair to summon the company’s leadership to give evidence.
Bloomberg News quoted Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche as saying that: “the public debate about diesel engines is creating uncertainty. We have therefore decided on additional measures to reassure drivers of diesel cars and to strengthen confidence in diesel technology.”
Independent assessments of the real performance of diesel cars have repeatedly shown that Volkswagen’s diesels were far from alone in emitting far more in nitrous oxides and carcinogenic soot than their advertizing and their official submissions to regulators suggested. However, Germany’s government, regulator and rival companies have consistently depicted the scandal as limited to the VW group. Zetsche himself said in January 2016, four months after the VW scandal broke, that such practices were impossible at Mercedes-Benz, which has long prided itself on having a technological edge over rivals such as VW’s Audi brand.
“If anyone had this kind of idea with us, this person would very quickly find someone else who would say ‘we don’t want it like that, and we will not do it like that,” Automotive News quoted Zetsche as saying at the time. At another press conference, Zetsche had said more bluntly “There was no deception with us. We didn’t manipulate any emissions data.”
However, Daimler had changed its tune in recent regulatory filings, admitting that it could face penalties in the U.S. for diesel-related violations. The Environmental Protection Agency has witheld approval for Daimler 2017 diesel models pending further information, and the Justice Department is reportedly investigating the matter in cooperation with its counterparts in Germany. The DoJ had first raised questions about Daimler’s emissions certification process in April last year.