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German automakers race to secure soot filter supplies

New anti-pollution laws hit diesel car sales

Munich. To help meet new anti-pollution laws, German automakers are fighting to get enough particulate filters to fit in their new cars.

Lawmakers may ban diesel cars from German cities because levels of small dust particles in the air breach European legal levels.

High demand for particulate filters has led to a shortage of the devices, which filter out most of the small dust particles that are cited as health hazards.

Ford Europe will get priority for supplies of filters from a new Ibiden filter plant that opens in Hungary this summer, sources said. Ford was the guarantor for a loan to finance the new plant.

"We are closely cooperating with our suppliers to create the capacities we need," said Ford-Werke boss Bernhard Mattes. He declined to disclose individual contract details.

The Volkswagen group already has secured supplies from the filter manufacturers HJS Fahrzeugtechnik and Emitec for a huge retrofitting campaign. VW also is talking to filter supplier Corning.

Automobilwoche was told that one automaker is considering a takeover of Emitec to secure filter supplies.

Wilfried Bockelmann, VW's development chief, accused the German media of encouraging panic among car buyers, which could hit sales of diesel cars without filters.

An Automobilwoche survey of 75 dealers of German brands showed that demand for diesel cars has already dropped significantly.

VW dealer association spokesman Eckhard Meyer said customers have canceled orders because the cars were not deliverable with particle filters.

BMW dealer Joerg Krausen said his customers will not buy a car that does not have a filter.

"We are in big trouble," said Krausen, who has BMW dealerships in Freiburg.

Many fleet operators have stopped ordering diesel cars altogether.

A survey of 150 fleet operators by research firm Dataforce showed that 45 percent had halted orders of diesel cars.

Ford has suspended its marketing campaign for diesel versions of its Focus and Focus C-Max models in Germany.

Meanwhile retrofitting older diesel cars with filters should create an economic boost.

A Roland Berger survey shows that there are up to 800,000 vehicles on German roads that could need filters.

Fitting filters to these vehicles could create 2,600 new jobs, which would bring the German government an extra 12.6 million euros in income tax.

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