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Mercedes Defends Diesel, Still Believes CO2 Is Biggest Issue

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German companies can't escape the addiction.

In the aftermath of Volkswagen's diesel manipulation scandal, the fuel has become a dirty, raunchy taboo in the boardrooms of most major automakers. Mercedes-Benz, however, isn't quite ready to quit. Dieter Zetsche, boss of Mercedes' parent company, Daimler, said that consumer confidence in diesel powertrains is still high despite the political narrative unfolding in Europe. Sales are increasing, shoppers in the Old World bought more diesels in 2017 than in 2016, and a majority of Mercedes' sales still come from oil-burners.

"In 2018 we are seeing a small dip in diesel take-up, but customers, on the whole, are still showing confidence," Zetsche told Autocar at the company's annual meetings. "More than 50% of our sales are diesels. They are more open to the options than the political discussions suggest." For Zetsche, the question surrounds CO2 emission levels. "We are talking a lot about NOx but I believe CO2 is still the biggest issue," pointing out the fact that diesel engines emit less carbon dioxide but more nitrogen oxide pollutants than petrol. He also announced Mercedes is investigating voluntarily releasing its own fuel economy and emission information to help drivers understand the effects.

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"The new regulations and test methods are a great step forward, but if we can offer even more realistic information that helps the customer then it can only be a good thing," he said. Truthfully though, Mercedes needs diesel's good time to continue as each of the big German three could face heavy European Union penalties if consumers begin buying more gasoline-powered cars, which could skew their carefully calculated fleet-wide CO2 emissions.