In February this year, a court ruled German cities to ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars from their streets. This move could accelerate a shift away from the combustion engine and force the manufacturers to pay to improve exhaust systems. However, late last week, Germany's top administrative court directed German cities to ban older diesel vehicles from streets with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels in line with European Union rules.
In a 30-page statement on the ruling, Germany's administrative court in Leipzig said there should be no grace periods for driving bans.
"Such restrictions, in their intensity, do not go beyond other passage and stopping bans as justified by road law requirements, which motorists always have to reckon with and which they principally have to accept," the court said.
European Commission has also requested for details of the German ruling to add pressure on Volkswagen and its German peers to provide hardware fixes for polluting diesel models.
Moreover, Germany is also considering plans to make public transport free in cities suffering from poor air quality. Germany's highest federal administrative court is due to rule on Tuesday on an appeal brought by German states against bans imposed by local courts in Stuttgart and Duesseldorf over bad air quality.
Bans in the home of some of the world's biggest automakers are a further blow for the sector, and an embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, which has faced criticism for its close ties to the industry.
"This ruling is a disaster for the government which one-sidedly stands in for the greed for profit by the carmakers while leaving 10 million owners of manipulated diesel cars alone," said Juergen Resch, managing director of Germany's DUH environmental lobby.
Immediate driving bans on major roads or road sections would be legitimate and could affect all models excluding those meeting the latest Euro-6 emissions standards, the ruling statement said. Of the 15 million diesel cars on Germany's roads, only 2.7 million have Euro-6 technology which was phased in 2014.