Government thought to be planning diesel scrappage scheme

As German car manufacturer Volkswagen (VW) faces its first legal action from a German customer over the "dieselgate" scandal, fresh reports suggest the UK Government is considering the national rollout of a diesel scrappage scheme.

The Department for Transport (Dft) is said to be working with Defra on a scheme which will offer cashback or a discount for people to scrap old diesel vehicles in exchange for low-emission models.

Over the last 15 years, a variety of policy and tax enablers have seen diesel car sales in Britain increase from 14% to 36%. But the latest research shows that these diesel vehicles are now responsible for almost 40% of all NO2 emissions in the UK’s major cities.

The Government is reportedly keen to employ the French model, whereby drivers receive £3,300 for a vehicle trade-in, and an additional purchase bonus of up to £5,200 on a new car, depending on its environmental performance.

DfT Secretary Chris Grayling, who said the Government recognised that diesel pollution “is not something we can ignore”, noted that a number of options were on the table to provide “cleaner air in our cities”. He also confirmed that Defra would publish an air quality strategy in “due course”.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show yesterday (5 February), Grayling said: “There was a lot of talk last week. The reality is this: we know we need to address the problem. There is a public health issue. Yes, we started with diesel cars because we thought they would reduce carbon emissions.

“Now we recognise there is a knock-on effect. We need to work through exactly what the best strategy is to deal with this. It can’t happen overnight. It’s going to have to happen in an evolutionary way, but it has to happen quite quickly.”

Discussions are understood to have taken place with the Treasury about the possibility of a pilot scheme in areas of the UK with the worst pollution, before a nationwide rollout. An announcement could arrive as early as Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget speech on 22 March.

Dieselgate saga drags on

The news comes as German fish and seafood producer Deutsche See revealed it would be suing VW over the diesel emissions scandal. Deutsche See, which leases 500 vehicles from the car manufacturer, released a statement which said an out-of-court settlement had become unachievable.

“Deutsche See only went into partnership with VW because VW promised the most environmentally friendly, sustainable mobility concept,” the statement read. German media reported that Deutsche See filed its complaint for “malicious deception” at the regional court in Braunschweig, near Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg headquarters.

This is the latest litigation to hit the company after it admitted to using ‘defeat devices’ in some of its most popular vehicles to cheat emissions tests; making its cars appear greener than they were. Various regulators, individual owners, states and dealers have filed lawsuits against the firm, which is now required to pay settlements and fines worth £16bn in the US alone.

Thousands of British motorists launched a lawsuit last month against VW in a claim that could end up costing the carmaker billions of pounds. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has previously called for the capital’s drivers to be compensated, including £2.5m for Transport for London in lost congestion charge payments.

George Ogleby

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