Recently, a German court ruling allowed cities in the country to ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars from their streets. The move is now being described as “scary and totally unnecessary,” according to Herbert Diess, chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen.

The bans would apply to Euro 4 (pre-2006) and older diesel cars, although Euro 5 models are being considered as well. Germany joins other countries like Paris, Madrid and Mexico City that are clamping down on diesel cars.

“A few years ago, in Stuttgart, there were 800 hours per year when it was above the air quality limit. Last year, it was three hours. The situation is continuously improving because everything is getting cleaner. We had 90 cities that were above the limits three years ago. Last year it was 70, and 50 of those are very close to limits. Which means that they will fall under those limits this year or next year,” said Diess in a report by Autocar UK.

“What’s left is 20 cities where air quality is poor in very localised areas. These are heavily loaded, narrow roads with no wind or airflow. If you then have a traffic jam, you accumulate levels which are really not healthy any more. And that’s where we have to work. In those cities, probably three or four streets have a problem. And even if you don’t do anything, it will go away in two or three years, because of the renovation of the fleet,” he added.

Diess explained he is more concerned about CO2 and climate changes, more so than the air quality issue, which “we can handle.” “What we have to do is more renovation of the car fleet, which is why we’ve bought back 160,000 cars already and scrapped them,” he noted.

The Volkswagen executive also said there are other ways to resolve the situation, and that a ban on diesels should only be for a worse-case scenario. “We will be able to sort the situation. I would make one of the four lanes found in many cities exclusively for electric vehicles and the thing is solved basically. You invest in public transport; it’s easy to solve,” he explained.

Even though customers are shying away from diesel vehicles, as reflected by decreasing sales, Diess still believes diesel will remain the primary option for long-distance drivers for the next five to 10 years. “We need diesel to be able to cope with our CO2 fleet targets. We think diesel is part of the solution, not the problem,” he said.