With Volkswagen’s emission crisis winding down (but seemingly never over), Daimler AG is taking center stage as the next automaker to potentially face serious hardship for dastardly diesel misdeeds. For the last few months, investigators from the United States and Germany have begun suspecting that Mercedes-Benz equipped its vehicles with defeat devices similar to those used by VW. While no evidence of fraud has surfaced, there’s reason to believe Daimler may have violated emission standards — especially now that it has decided to recall 3 million late-model diesels.
“The public debate about diesel engines is creating uncertainty,” Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said in a statement on Tuesday. “We have therefore decided on additional measures to reassure drivers of diesel cars and to strengthen confidence in diesel technology.”
The plan involves a software patch and will cost the automaker roughly 220 million euros ($255 million), but could theoretically save it billions if this avoids a scandal on the scale of Volkswagen’s. The recall, which comprises practically every modern-era diesel-engined automobile Mercedes has produced, is extremely likely to spill over into the United States — primarily due to its more stringent regulation of NOx emissions.
Daimler stated that, by recalling the vehicles, it was “making a significant contribution to the reduction of nitrogen-oxide emissions from diesel vehicles in European inner cities.”
The automaker claimed previously that the accusations against it were preposterous and that it would fight back using all legal means at its disposal. It also expressed its distaste for the frequent raids it endured from Stuttgart prosecutors. While automotive manufacturers found themselves subjected to a bit of a diesel emissions witch hunt following VW’s crisis, some industry analysts assumed it would only be a matter of time before investigators would uncover another major scandal.
Whether or not Mercedes-Benz is guilty of emissions cheating remains up for debate, but Daimler seems to be taking every precaution to ensure it doesn’t get caught with its pants down.
“This is finally a proactive move to put something on the table and a solid attempt at getting out in front of the debate,” Juergen Pieper, an analyst with Bankhaus Metzler, expressed to Bloomberg as news of the recall broke. Pieper considered the recall cost Daimler of 70 euros per car “extraordinarily low,” suggesting it may rise.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has specified it is continuing to evaluate light-duty diesel vehicles from several manufacturers, but was unwilling to comment on the status of Mercedes’ vehicles or the status of any pending investigations.