German Automakers Set to Install New Software Into 5 Million Diesel Cars

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German automakers met with politicians and committed to installing brand new software to reduce harmful emissions into 5 million diesel cars, along with plans to offer drivers financial incentives to trade older cars for discounts on newer ones.

The so-called “Diesel Summit” took place on Wednesday, bringing together state governors and ministers with bosses from Porsche, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Audi, Ford, and Opal. The summit came amid fears that older diesel cars would be banned outright in some cities, as well as questions and concerns about the viability of diesel technology.

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said automakers committed to installing new software in around 5.3 million diesel cars. This will apply to most diesel cars made after 2009. The software is designed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide by up to 30%. Around 2.5 million of these cars are Volkswagen cars that are already being refitted.

Dobrindt added that automakers had agreed to create self-financed incentives designed to encourage diesel drivers to get their older cars off the road faster. BMW in particular said they planned on giving owners of diesel cars produced before 2009 what they call an “Environment Bonus” worth up to 2,000 euros for trading their car in for an electric/hybrid car, or a car that produces less emissions and meets current standards.

The German auto industry has also agreed to provide the government with an unspecified amount of funding for a “sustainable mobility fund” for investing in technology to improve traffic flow in cities.

Dobrindt has said the government is going to invest around 250 million euros ($295 million) in modernizing public transport including taxis and buses. Investing in public transportation like this gets more people commuting to work on buses and frees up the roads.

Volkswagen have been placed under heavy scrutiny following their admission almost two years ago that they had equipped their vehicles with technology that manipulated their emission levels. Other German automakers have faced pressure recently following reports that the major players had been colluding together for several years to manipulate issues including diesel technology.

Industry executives would hold a news conference following the summit where they outlined what steps they are taking. Daimler will be updating the engine control software in 3 million of their vehicles in August; which is just about every diesel car they have sold since 2009. Audi will be updating around 850,000 cars while BMW will update over 300,000. They also said they believe Diesel will remain important as diesel cars emit less carbon dioxide, which makes it easier to make them meet regulations for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. While automakers are investing in cleaner cars, they still believe diesel cars will co-exist with hybrids and electric cars for several more years and are in no hurry to ditch diesel entirely.

Industry critics and officials alike were calling for deeper measures that went beyond just updating software before the meeting even began on Wednesday. Representatives from the industry said that going further wasn’t feasible, but some still feel that the automakers managed to get off lightly; saying that they have been provided with a cheap way to keep selling dangerously dirty diesel cars.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, always revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance producer for USA Today, and a contributor at Technorati. She lives in Utah with her 2 kids and husband. Melissa Thompson can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter @melthompson88. Please follow and friend her on either site.