Germany summons Daimler to address emissions allegations

Move comes amid reports Mercedes-Benz owner is under investigation over software

If Daimler faced VW-style fines in the US, the penalty for Mercedes-Benz would be about €175 million to €264 million, analysts estimated. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

If Daimler faced VW-style fines in the US, the penalty for Mercedes-Benz would be about €175 million to €264 million, analysts estimated. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

A German government committee investigating carmakers has summoned Daimler for a meeting on Thursday to address allegations it sold cars with excessive emissions, the transport ministry said.

Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung, citing a search warrant issued by a Stuttgart court, reported that prosecutors were examining the possible use of illegal software to manipulate emissions tests in Mercedes-Benz vehicles between 2008 and 2016. The Stuttgart prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the report.

Daimler declined to comment on an ongoing inquiry into the carmaker by the Stuttgart prosecutor but said it was fully co-operating with the authorities, adding it did not believe cars would lose their roadworthiness certification.

Analysts said the latest report would spook investors, but stopped short of saying this emissions inquiry could take on Volkswagen-scale dimensions with millions of vehicles needing to be recalled. “We take comfort from the fact that this is a European issue, not a US investigation. We also do not believe these Merc cars will lose their certification. Our judgment is that Merc will be asked to recall these cars for a ‘software fix’,” Bernstein Research analysts said in a note on Thursday.

If Daimler did face VW-style fines of about $7,000 (€6,150) per vehicle in the United States, the penalty for Mercedes-Benz would be about $200 million to $300 million (€175 million to €264 million), Bernstein estimated. Daimler said it would comply with the request from the transport ministry’s expert panel, but declined to say whether chief executive Dieter Zetsche would attend the meeting.

“We have always supported the work of the authorities in the past and will continue to do so in the future,” a spokesman said. “This is why we are, of course, also available for discussions with the Federal Ministry of Transportation.”

The transport ministry set up its investigation committee after Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 that it had installed secret software in its diesel cars in the US to cheat nitrogen oxide emission tests.

Two months ago, Stuttgart prosecutors searched Daimler sites in Germany following allegations of false advertising and the possible wrongful manipulation of exhaust gas treatment systems in diesel cars. – (Reuters)