German state says carmakers to push diesel filters


BERLIN, March 31 (Reuters) - The German state of Bavaria said on Thursday carmakers Audi and BMW would shortly start a nationwide programme to fit diesel engine particle filters to existing cars.

Bavarian Environment Minister Werner Schnappauf said after talks with the carmakers that the state had agreed a programme to cut vehicle emissions with Audi and BMW who would release more details over the next few days.

Germany's government promised on Wednesday to present draft legislation before the summer to speed the introduction of diesel engine particle filters after air pollution levels in Munich and Stuttgart broke new EU limits.

The government had said in February it planned to propose tax breaks to people buying cars fitted with diesel filters or adapting older vehicles, but did not put a timetable on any law after some of Germany's 16 states rejected the idea.

EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told German television on Thursday member states would be given time to enforce new air pollution rules.

But speculation has escalated that some cities may introduce temporary driving bans or tolls, prompting auto industry fears that business could be hit.

German Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement (Social Democrats) said the discussion risked harming one of the country's key industries.

But Environment Minister Juergen Trittin of coalition partners the Greens told the Handelsblatt newspaper: "If we should actually see the kind of sales crisis feared by the German autos industry then they would have only themselves to blame. German carmakers have ignored the problem of diesel particle pollution for far too long, unlike their French competitors."

Under the government's plans, new car buyers would be offered a 350 euro ($453) reduction in road tax if their vehicle is fitted with a diesel filter. Those converting older cars would get 250 euros.

German VDA car industry association president Bernd Gottschalk said in a statement on Thursday Germany's carmakers were ready to play their part and firms were rushing to organise programmes to install filters on older cars. But he called on the government to come up with a wider solution to the problem of vehicle air pollution.



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