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German minister demands far-reaching reforms from automotive industry

  BERLIN, April 16 (Xinhua) -- German economy minister Peter Altmaier on Monday demanded far-reaching reforms from the auto industry in the ongoing "dieselgate" scandal.

  Speaking to the newspaper BILD, Altmaier urged German carmakers to develop new business models which were "compatible with an ecological and digital future".

  The senior Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician called for the "electric vehicles of the future" needed to be built in Germany and criticized that automotive corporations had so far been reluctant to commit to related investments.

  Altmaier warned that the likes of Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen would be "left behind by international competition" unless they reacted quickly and "invested tens of billions of euros" into the development of new energy vehicles (NEVs).

  He further called for the creation of an independent European battery cell manufacturing industry to prevent the "lion's share" of profits in the automotive value-added from being concentrated in the U.S. or Asia.

  At the same time, however, Altmaier emphasized in his interview with BILD that he shared the views of transport minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) on the need to prevent outright driving bans on diesel vehicles in Germany.

  There could be "no punishment of those who had merely relied on the assurances of the automotive industry", he argued.

  A recent landmark ruling has empowered German cities to introduce driving bans on heavily-polluting diesel vehicles as a means to lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution levels.

  A recent study found that diesel sales in Germany have collapsed since the ruling in spite of assurances by policymakers to prevent owners from suffering a sharp depreciation in the value of their vehicles.

  Speaking on Monday, Altmaier said it's time for German car manufacturers to focus on "setting the course for an environmentally-friendly future of mobility".