Executive Briefings

In Germany’s Car Capital, the Unthinkable: A Ban on Cars

The star of Daimler shines bright over Stuttgart, Germany — literally. The giant illuminated emblem of its most famous car, the Mercedes, towers above the main train station, greeting visitors. It is visible for miles.

“As soon as you arrive,” said Manfred Niess, a retired teacher and local environmental activist, “you know who rules here.”

Now, though, Daimler and other automakers in Stuttgart are facing a startling new reality: It may soon be illegal for some to drive a Mercedes in this city, where the local soccer club plays in the Mercedes-Benz stadium.

On Tuesday, a German court ruled that Stuttgart, one of the country’s most polluted cities, can ban diesel cars from driving in downtown areas to improve air equality. The ruling could ultimately lead to bans in a host of cities in Germany, a country with millions of diesel cars on the streets. Unlike in the United States, where diesel cars are the exception, in Germany roughly one in three passenger vehicles runs on diesel.

“It is the latest wake-up call for the German auto industry and German politicians,” said Christoph Bals, policy director of Germanwatch, an advocacy and research group for clean energy. “And this time it might actually force them to change their ways.”

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“As soon as you arrive,” said Manfred Niess, a retired teacher and local environmental activist, “you know who rules here.”

Now, though, Daimler and other automakers in Stuttgart are facing a startling new reality: It may soon be illegal for some to drive a Mercedes in this city, where the local soccer club plays in the Mercedes-Benz stadium.

On Tuesday, a German court ruled that Stuttgart, one of the country’s most polluted cities, can ban diesel cars from driving in downtown areas to improve air equality. The ruling could ultimately lead to bans in a host of cities in Germany, a country with millions of diesel cars on the streets. Unlike in the United States, where diesel cars are the exception, in Germany roughly one in three passenger vehicles runs on diesel.

“It is the latest wake-up call for the German auto industry and German politicians,” said Christoph Bals, policy director of Germanwatch, an advocacy and research group for clean energy. “And this time it might actually force them to change their ways.”

Read full article