FRANKFURT -- Ford Motor's German operations decided against an industry-wide program to clean up diesel cars with software updates, calling the plan ineffective.
BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen Group on Wednesday agreed to update the engine software of more than 5 million diesel cars in Germany to reduce harmful NOx emissions. Most models will be Euro 5 diesels with some Euro 6 models included in the refit recall.
Ford said it believes a software retrofit will result in "negligible customer benefit and have no real impact on air quality."
The deal also could raise "unrealistic" expectations from the authorities and non-governmental organizations, Ford said in a statement.
Instead Ford Germany is offering incentives of between 2,000 euros and 8,000 euros to encourage customers to trade in Euro 1, 2 or 3 diesels registered in 2006 or earlier for a new Ford model.
Ford said it is evaluating whether to extend the offer outside of Germany.
Volkswagen Group, BMW and Toyota also are offering trade-in incentives for older diesels in Germany.
BMW will give owners of Euro 4 or diesel cars a bonus of up to 2,000 euros when they trade in their vehicle for a BMW i3 electric car, a plug-in hybrid or a Euro 6-standard vehicle.
Toyota is offering up to 4,000 euros to German customers who swap a diesel car from any brand for a new Toyota hybrid model.
Volkswagen Group said it will give trade-in incentives for Euro 1 to Euro 4 diesel models across all brands including the VW, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, Seat marques. It did not specify how much the incentives would be.
Foreign brands criticized
German Transportation Minister Alexander Dobrindt criticized import brands, which have so far declined to take part in the software update recall because they cannot agree on a common position.
"I made it very clear during the summit that the behavior exhibited by the foreign manufacturers is entirely unacceptable," he said. "Whoever wants to retain their share of the German market must be prepared to accept responsibility for the cities, for public health and cleaner air, and these manufacturers are not yet meeting their responsibilities."
Clean air campaigners criticized Wednesday's deal, which was agreed at a summit in Berlin attended by politicians and top auto industry executives. Public health advocates and environmental lobbyists said only a more expensive hardware solution will sufficiently lower tailpipe pollutants. They also question promises from automakers that the software fix will not affect the engines' performance, fuel consumption or durability.
Volkswagen Group agreed to recall 1.5 million vehicles across its stable of brands, while Daimler will update 900,000 models and BMW said it would update emissions software on 300,000 cars. Opel, which has the lowest diesel share of any German brand, committed to unspecified improvements.
Additionally nearly 2.5 million Volkswagen Group Vehicles are receiving the software on a mandatory basis.
Ford accepted that diesels may have to be banned from areas with poor air quality. Munich and Stuttgart are among cities considering bans.
"No measures – including restrictions on vehicles in certain emission hot spots – should be ruled out," said Ford's Germany sales and marketing chief, Wolfgang Kopplin.
Pollution from diesel emissions has become a hot topic ahead of Germany's general election on Sept. 24. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has been criticized for cozy ties to the auto industry, which is the country's biggest exporter and provides about 800,000 jobs.