Every Mercedes-Benz car sold in Britain in the past six years is to be recalled by the German vehicle giant Daimler amid a scandal over ‘faked’ emission results.
Owners of nearly every model made by the firm will be asked to return their cars so the engines can be adjusted to reduce the amount of pollutants they emit.
It follows the launch of an investigation by the German authorities in May into allegations of fraud and criminal advertising by employees of the firm relating to the possible manipulation of exhaust controls in cars with diesel engines.
As part of the investigation hundreds of police officers and prosecutors searched Daimler sites across Germany. The company has said it is cooperating with the investigation.
The decision to cut emissions from around three million existing vehicles across Europe will cost the company about £195 million (220 million euros).
It comes amid continued scrutiny of the company’s emissions systems by the German government and calls for bans on diesel engines in the country’s cities.
There has been calls for a ban on diesel cars in some German cities because of concerns about levels of nitrogen oxide they emit.
Daimler’s announcement came just hours after the regional government in the company’s home region of Baden-Wuerttemburg agreed to abandon proposals to restrict diesels if older diesels could be mechanically fixed to pollute less.
The recall will have an impact on hundreds of thousands of Daimler vehicles, including the popular C-class and E-class Mercedes-Benz, sold in Britain.
In 2015 alone 145,254 Mercedes-Benz cars were sold in the UK, up from 124,419 the previous year – the vast majority of them diesel engines.
Dieter Zetsche, Daimler’s chief executive officer, said on Tuesday: “The public debate about diesel engines is creating uncertainty. We have therefore decided on additional measures to reassure drivers of diesel cars and to strengthen confidence in diesel technology.”
But the company says this does not spell the end of its production of diesel engine cars and vans.
Zetsche added: “We are convinced that diesel engines will continue to be a fixed element of the drive-system mix, not least due to their low CO2 emissions,”
Daimler customers in the UK – along those in Europe – will shortly begin receiving letters from the firm inviting them to book their vehicles into an approved dealership in order for the work to be carried out. It will take around an hour and will be free of charge.
Daimler has been offering a similar voluntary recall on compact diesel cars and V-Class vans since March.
It will now cover nearly all vehicles made under the EU5 emissions standards – introduced in 2011 – and the more recent EU6 emissions standards and begin in the next few weeks.
The required adjustment to the operation of the engine is estimated to take around an hour.
The reputation of diesel cars was hit by the admission by Daimler’s competitor Volkswagen in 2015 that it had equipped vehicles with illegal software that meant they passed emissions tests, only to exceed limits in everyday driving.
The latest recall follows its decision in March to recall about 75,000 Mercedes-Benz cars in the UK in March because of the risk of fire.
Daimler recalled one million cars worldwide after 51 fires were reported in vehicles
It said the fault affects the fuse in some of its A, B, C, and E-class cars as well as its CLA, GLA and GLC vehicles and could cause them to overheat in “unique conditions”.
The German company said these conditions would occur during the starting of the car.
Earlier this month Volvo announced that all new cars launched from 2019 onwards will be partially or completely battery-powered, in what the company called a “historic end” to models that only have an internal combustion engine.
The Swedish firm said it will introduce five 100% electric models, and ensure the rest of its conventional petrol and diesel range has a hybrid engine of some form.