— Mercedes-Benz Korea has been fined more than $63 million (77.6 billion won) for allegedly selling vehicles with illegal emissions systems, the largest South Korean fine laid on an automaker for alleged emissions violations.
According to the Ministry of Environment, Mercedes-Benz Korea, Nissan Korea and Porsche Korea manipulated their emissions systems to intentionally defraud consumers and the government.
Korean regulators accuse Mercedes, Nissan and Porsche of installing illegal diesel software that affects exhaust gas recirculation and selective catalytic reduction systems which increases nitrogen oxide levels.
Regulators claim the vehicles contain software that decreases nitrogen oxide levels in the lab so the vehicles pass emissions testing. Back on the roads the vehicles allegedly emit illegal levels of nitrogen oxides.
The Ministry alleges more than 37,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles sold between 2012 and 2018 emit nitrogen oxides at more than 13 times the legal limit. In comparison, Nissan sold 2,293 allegedly illegal diesel Qashqai vehicles and Porsche sold 934 Macan S diesels.
The Nissan Qashqai allegedly emits nitrogen oxide levels 10 times above standards, costing the automaker 900 million won ($737,826). The Porsche Macan S emits only 1.5 times more than the legal limit, but it will still decrease Volkswagen's profits by 1 billion won ($819,807).
Mercedes Korea says it won't pay the fine because there is nothing wrong with the vehicles. According to the automaker, the emission systems are complex and comprehensive and created specifically for those vehicles.
The allegedly illegal systems are legal, according to Mercedes, and the entire purpose of the emission components is to decrease emissions. In addition, Mercedes told regulators the allegedly defective vehicles were discontinued in May 2018.
Although the Ministry says it will file criminal charges and force the automakers to recall the vehicles, Mercedes Korea says it will take legal action against the government.
The Ministry is giving the three automakers 45 days to submit their plans for recalls of the diesel vehicles.