BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's new transport minister said on Friday he was no "buddy" of car industry bosses, but a friend of production line workers and drivers who opposes bans for diesel vehicles and forcing manufacturers to refit cars.
Andreas Scheuer, sworn in as minister this week, also told Bild newspaper that he - like Chancellor Angela Merkel - opposed the introduction of a system of badges to identify more polluting diesels. He said they were the first step towards the driving bans he wanted to avoid.
"I don't see myself as a buddy of automobile bosses but rather as the mate of those working on the production lines and as someone who represents the interests of diesel vehicle owners," Scheuer said.
Some officials have proposed a system of "blue badges" that would allow cities with particularly bad air quality to selectively ban dirtier diesel cars from their streets.
But Scheuer said he, like his predecessor Alexander Dobrindt, who was often accused of being too closely tied to the country's car industry, opposed any move in that direction.
"Whether it's blue badges, light blue badges," he said, "badges are the wrong method. I reject their introduction like my predecessor Alexander Dobrindt did. They are the first step towards driving bans."
But he insisted he would be tough with carmakers, promising "new, very, very serious talks" with carmakers on diesel pollution. Asked whether car companies would be forced generally to retrofit diesel cars, he said he expected the companies to cooperate but added: "Forcing is not the way I do politics."
Merkel last week said she opposed blanket nationwide schemes to restrict diesels, adding a badge scheme would let off the hook cities that should instead focus on finding locally appropriate ways of improving air quality, for instance by retrofitting public transport vehicles.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Paul Carrel and Mark Potter)