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INDUSTRY & TRADE

Germany slaps Bosch with huge fine over ‘dieselgate’ role

German prosecutors said Thursday they had fined car parts supplier Bosch €90 million over its role supplying components in the "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal.

Germany slaps Bosch with huge fine over 'dieselgate' role
Photo: DPA

Stuttgart investigators “levied a fine against Robert Bosch GmbH for negligently infringing its quality control obligations,” they said in a statement, adding that the German company had agreed not to contest the fine.

The €90 million sum is made up of a penalty of two million, while the remaining 88 million covers the estimated economic benefit Bosch gained from the crimes.

SEE ALSO: How diesel bans have ignited a debate about dirty tricks and dodgy money

Beginning in 2008, Bosch “delivered around 17 million motor control and mixture control devices to various domestic and foreign manufacturers, some of whose software contained illegal strategies,” the prosecutors found.

“Cars fitted with the devices emitted more nitrogen oxides than allowed under regulations.”

Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to fitting 11 million cars worldwide with such technology, and the fallout has so far cost the German car behemoth more than 30 billion euros. Further legal proceedings are outstanding against both VW and former executives as individuals.

In its own statement, Bosch said it “will continue to expand its compliance organisation continuously in order to minimise the risk of violations of applicable law”.

The firm promises “product development that is focused on the protection of human health and the environment”.

It added that it had also retrained one-in-four of its workforce, or 100,000 workers, most of them in research and development, in a new code of conduct.

For Bosch, the fine closes legal proceedings against the company over dieselgate.

While prosecutors are still probing whether employees were involved in criminal actions, authorities believe “the initiative for the integration and form of the illegal strategies both came from employees at the car manufacturers” rather than suppliers like Bosch.

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POLLUTION

‘Infringement on air quality’: EU court slams Germany for pollution in cities

The EU's top court ruled on Thursday that Germany continually violated upper limits for nitrogen dioxide, a polluting gas from diesel motors that causes major health problems, over several years.

'Infringement on air quality': EU court slams Germany for pollution in cities
Cars sit in traffic in Stuttgart's Hauptstätter Straße in July 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany infringed air quality rules “by systematically and persistently exceeding” the annual nitrogen dioxide limit in 26 out of 89 areas from 2010 to 2016, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in its ruling.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, referred the matter to the ECJ in 2018 after almost a decade of warnings that went unaddressed.

The decision against Europe’s top economy echoes a ruling targeting France in October 2019 after the commission stepped up its anti-pollution fight in the wake of the so-called “Dieselgate” scandal that erupted in 2015 with revelations about Germany’s Volkswagen.

The motors caught up in the scandal — in which automakers installed
special emission-cheating devices into their car engines — are the main emitters of nitrogen oxides that the European Environment Agency says are responsible for 68,000 premature deaths per year in the EU.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about Germany’s dieselgate scandal

Nitrogen dioxide is toxic and can cause significant respiratory problems as one of the main constituents of traffic-jam smog.

Under EU rules, member countries are required to keep the gas to under 40 micrograms per cubic metre — but that level is often exceeded in many traffic-clogged European cities.

The judgement opens the way to possible sanctions at a later stage. However the air quality throughout much of Germany has improved in the last five years, particularly during the shutdowns in the pandemic.

The environment ministry said that 90 cities exceeded national pollution limits in 2016 — the final year covered by the court ruling. By 2019, the number had fallen to 25 and last year, during the coronavirus outbreak, it was just six.

The case involved 26 areas in Germany, including Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart as well as urban and rural areas in North Rhine-Westphalia, Mainz, Worms/Frankenthal/Ludwigshafen and Koblenz/Neuwied.

“Furthermore, Germany infringed the directive by systematically and
persistently exceeding, during that period, the hourly limit value for NO2 in two of those zones” — the Stuttgart area and the Rhine-Main region.

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