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Shaun Sadlier's blog: German emissions ruling could affect UK fleets

Date: 07 March 2018

A court ruling in Germany could have quite wide-ranging implications for fleets in the UK. Local authorities have been given rights to improve air quality in their cities by introducing diesel bans without permission from central government.

What is surprising is the scope of the powers that are being granted. Once an emissions regulation is six years old, cities will be able to ban the vehicles it covers. So, Euro 5 cars could be halted immediately and even Euro 6 by late 2019.

There is no indication that local authorities will use these powers, and some officials have indicated that any action is unlikely before 2020, but 70 different cities in Germany regularly report air quality problems, so it seems likely some will take action.

The environmental groups who brought the court action centred them on Stuttgart and Dusseldorf, so the move was clearly designed to send a message to the automotive sector - and this is where the ruling could have an impact on UK fleets. Simply, if even the cleanest diesel vehicles are no longer allowed in some German cities, production of, and investment in, diesel by German and other manufacturers is likely to decline more rapidly.

This would inevitably have an effect in the medium and long term on the cars that major German manufacturers offer to UK fleets. While we at Arval have been saying for some time that there will be a gradual shift away from diesel and towards hybrids and other ATVs, developments like this have the potential to speed up that process. 

Theoretically, it could lead to a knock-on effect across Europe and into the UK. If a German city institutes very strict emissions measures and they succeed with improving air quality while having a limited impact on the economic life of the area, it will create an impetus to make similar changes in other urban areas. 

Certainly, we will be watching what is happening in Germany with interest.

Shaun Sadlier is head of consulting at Arval



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