BERLIN, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Germans are rapidly losing their taste for diesel cars, a study published on Wednesday by the Association of International Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (VDIK) finds.
According to VDIK, new registrations of passenger vehicles with diesel motors declined by 21 percent to a total of 283,800 cars during the first three months of 2018, while German new car sales reached 879,000, the highest level since 2000.
A recent landmark ruling by the Federal Administrative Court has at least theoretically empowered municipal governments to impose driving bans on heavily-polluting diesel vehicles unilaterally. The Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) has estimated that diesel cars are responsible for more than 50 percent of harmful nitrogen oxide emissions in Germany.
Given that 20 major German cities will currently fail to comply with binding EU clean air regulations by 2020, the European Commission in Brussels has threatened to sue Germany before the European Court of Justice (CFEU) unless it addresses the situation swiftly.
The newly-appointed transport minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) has sought to reassure diesel vehicle drivers that his ministry would resist any outright driving bans in order to prevent a depreciation in the value of their cars and instead promote other, less radical, measures such as software updates.
Nevertheless, Wednesday's widely-publicized figures indicate that many new buyers in Germany do not share Scheuer's public optimism that driving bans can still be averted in the ongoing "dieselgate" scandal.
About the overall strong first quarter sales, VDIK president Reinhard Zirpel attributed part of the growth in sales to programmes launched by German carmakers to swap older more polluting vehicles for newer models which were more efficient.
Zirpel believes the "strong first quarter" will contribute to a significant rejuvenation of the vehicle fleet and will ensure further reductions in emissions."