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[BERLIN] Germany is open in principle to class action lawsuits against carmakers engulfed in the diesel emissions cheating scandal, the Transport Ministry said on Monday ahead of a diesel summit this week.
Representatives of the federal government, states and major carmakers will meet on Wednesday to discuss ways to avoid diesel bans though a German environmental group is threatening to sue the industry unless it takes radical steps.
The car industry hopes it can reduce polluting nitrogen oxide emissions with relatively cheap software updates and avoid court bans on diesel cars in some cities.
But a court on Friday backed a legal bid by German environmental group DUH to ban diesel cars from Stuttgart, which is home to carmakers Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and auto suppliers Bosch and Mahle.
The court ruling said retrofitting diesel cars with new software would not be sufficient to ensure Stuttgart meets emissions standards as soon as possible.
DUH, which is pushing for carmakers to be forced to replace emission control systems, said it felt validated by the court decision and expected action at this week's summit.
"We will not be fobbed off with a half-baked proposal," DUH head Juergen Resch said on Monday in Berlin.
"We will make use of all available legal possibilities."
The Environment Ministry has already made clear that software improvements can only be a first step as they reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by about 25 per cent on average.
A government spokeswoman said on Monday that the purpose of the summit was for politicians to tell the car industry what they expected.
A transport ministry spokesman added that the government would be embarking on discussions from a unified position.
"We are in principle open to instruments like class action lawsuits," the spokesman said during a regular news conference.
The car industry is hoping decisions made at the diesel summit this week will help it avoid legal appeals as the threat of driving bans has hit sales of diesel cars.
A finance ministry spokesman also said it was too early to discuss incentives to promote the sale of low-emission modern diesel and electric cars.