The South Korean government said Wednesday it will issue fines and file criminal complaints against Mercedes-Benz Korea, Nissan Korea and Porsche Korea for manipulating emissions data on their diesel vehicles.
The Ministry of Environment said that some 4,381 diesel-powered vehicles of 14 models sold in the country by the three carmakers between 2012 and 2018 were fitted with illicit devices to cheat pollution standards. The certification for the models will be revoked within this month and the vehicles recalled, it said.
Mercedes-Benz Korea faces a record fine of 77.6 billion won ($63.4 million) for selling 37,154 such cars in 12 different models, including C200d, GLC220 d 4Matic, GLC250 d 4Matic and ML250 BlueTEC 4Matic, which generated as much as 13 times more nitrogen oxide, or NOX, than standards allowed.
It marks the first time Benz Korea was caught cheating regulators’ emissions tests here, and the German carmaker faces the largest-ever fine imposed by the Korean government on automakers involved in the emissions manipulation scandal.
Audi Volkswagen Korea was fined 14.1 billion won in November 2015 for fabricating emissions test results for 125,000 diesel-powered cars it sold here.
Nissan Korea and Porsche Korea will be slapped with fines of 900 million won and 1 billion won, respectively, for selling 2,293 units of the Qashqai and 934 units of the Macan S Diesel fitted with the emissions-cheating software.
The three automakers were found to have installed illicit software on diesel-fueled cars to manipulate levels of emissions of exhaust gas recirculation and selective catalytic reduction when driving under test conditions, according to the ministry.
The software allowed the vehicles to detect when they are being tested in a lab and squeeze the output of toxic air pollutants, such as NOX, to levels far below those actually released on the road.
This way, some Mercedes Benz models generated about 13 times more NOX than the standard limit of 0.08 gram per kilometer. The nitrogen oxide output levels of a Nissan model and a Porsche model were 10 times and 1.5 times more, respectively, compared to the safety standard.
“The Ministry of Environment continues to toughen diesel car emissions standards to reduce fine dust caused by diesel cars and we plan to strictly review and manage illegal emissions fabrication,” said Keum Han-seung, an official from the ministry.
Mercedes-Benz Korea refuted the government’s announcement.
“The reason we used the function in question is we have justifiable technological and legal grounds for its use,” it said in a statement Wednesday, adding the function is only a part of a emissions control system designed to reduce emissions.
It also added that the government’s decision does not affect new models being sold here, as production for the models in question was entirely suspended in May 2018.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org