JUST days after Mercedes-Benz boasted of record-breaking sales, with figures for the first six months of 2017 exceeding those of all previous years, its reputation suffered a heavy blow. The German company has announced it is recalling 3m diesel cars to reduce their emissions.
The recall applies to diesel-powered Mercedes cars made since 2011 and will affect hundreds of thousands of British drivers. Owners will be asked to return their vehicle to a Mercedes dealership for a free software update to reduce the amount of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) the engine emits.
Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz and chairman of its parent company, Daimler, described the recall as voluntary. The company told us that British drivers would not invalidate any warranty if they didn’t have the repairs made to their car.
The announcement follows an investigation by German authorities of allegations of fraud and criminal advertising by Mercedes and employees, relating to the possible manipulation of emissions control equipment in diesel engines. Mercedes denies any wrongdoing.
The recall began with Mercedes’ 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, which is also used by Renault in a number of popular cars.
Because of the volume of cars, some customers will be kept waiting for a year and a half
But the operation was quickly expanded to include all diesel Mercedes cars built since 2011. These are cars that conformed to either Euro 5 emissions regulations (for vehicles registered on January 1, 2011, or later) or the tighter Euro 6 (from September 2015) standard.
The upgrade takes about one hour, but because of the number of cars involved, Mercedes says some customers will be kept waiting for a year and a half. It is expecting the recall to cost nearly £200m.
In 2015 another German car maker, Volkswagen, admitted cheating in emissions tests on diesel cars. More than 1m British drivers have been caught up in the VW Dieselgate scandal, and around 11m owners worldwide.
The NOx emissions from diesel vehicles contribute to 6.5m early deaths a year, according to the International Energy Agency. Experts said yesterday that the Mercedes recall could lead to similar action from other car makers.
Despite the concerns, Mercedes says it is committed to diesel: “We are convinced that diesel engines will continue to be a fixed element of the drive-system mix.” The company added that it is accelerating the launch of a new generation of cleaner diesel engine.
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