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Daimler steps up its defense of diesel

by Ronan Glon

\"We reject driving bans, which are a forced restriction on mobility,\" Daimler writes.

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler has issued a lengthy statement to defend the diesel engine. The company claims improving the diesel engine is a smarter idea than banning it, like some politicians (notably in Germany) recently suggested.

"To do away with the diesel at this point in time would be a big mistake, for both environmental and economic reasons," the statement summed up.

Daimler pointed out modern diesel engines like the ones fitted to the latest A-Class (pictured) and CLS emit less CO2 than comparable gasoline engines. Recently, technology like particulate filters and urea injection systems made diesel engines much cleaner than they used to be. "The debate surrounding diesel is being staged at a time when the NOx problem can be said to be technically solved." And, Daimler adds its engines will continue to become cleaner in the coming years.

The company improved the NOx emissions of older engines by up to 30 percent in everyday driving conditions through software updates. It ruled out making hardware updates, which it calls impractical.

Daimler is working with Stuttgart, its home town, to reduce air pollution. It's one of the most polluted cities in Germany, and one of the places seeking to ban diesel-powered cars sooner rather than later. When government officials issue a pollution alert, Daimler encourages its employees to take public transportation by paying for their bus or train trip to and from work. It also stops conducting test drives in the Stuttgart area when the level of particulate matter detected in the air exceeds a specific threshold.

"As a company that, for more than 130 years now, has demonstrated its total commitment to helping people be mobile we reject driving bans, which are a forced restriction on mobility," Daimler concluded.

The statement won't have much of an effect in the lives of American motorists. Mercedes gave up on a market it once dominated when it decided to no longer sell diesel-powered cars in the United States. The number of turbodiesel models on sale here is growing thanks to new entrants like Hyundai, but BMW is the only German brand with an oil-burner in its catalog.

Photography by Ronan Glon.