BERLIN — A senior German court today ruled that the country’s towns and cities can ban diesel vehicles in the interests of promoting cleaner air, a decision with vast potential implications for the automotive industry, the car-owning public and the environment.
The ruling, by Germany’s top administrative court, clears the way for local authorities to prohibit millions of cars now on German roadways from entering congested areas where residents choke on air that routinely exceeds the legal limits. It does not, however, mandate such bans.
The decision was closely watched in a country whose fervor for cars — engineering them, manufacturing them and driving them — is enduring. But the love affair has been tainted in recent years by scandal. The 2015 revelation that Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests cast a particularly long shadow on an industry that employs some 800,000 Germans.
Tuesday’s decision represents another critical blow for car makers, and for German authorities who had been seeking an excuse not to anger voters by instituting bans.