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Frankfurt, Germany — German automaker Daimler says it is voluntarily recalling 3 million Mercedes-Benz brand cars with diesel engines in Europe to improve their emissions performance in the wake of widespread public debate over the future of diesel.

The Stuttgart-based company says it is taking the step to reassure drivers and strengthen confidence.

Diesels have been under a cloud since Daimler’s competitor Volkswagen admitted equipping vehicles with illegal software that meant they passed emissions tests, but then exceeded limits in everyday driving. There has been a push for diesel bans in some German cities because of concerns about levels of nitrogen oxide emitted by diesels.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said Tuesday that “the public debate about diesel engines is creating uncertainty — especially for our customers.”

“We have therefore decided on additional measures to reassure drivers of diesel cars and to strengthen confidence in diesel technology,” he said in a statement.

The recall will cover nearly all vehicles made under the EU5 and EU6 emissions standards and will start in the next few weeks. The company said it would cost 220 million euros ($254.21 million), but that customers wouldn’t pay anything.

The recall expands a smaller, ongoing recall offered to owners of compact-class and Mercedes-Benz V-Class vehicles. It said the fix would involve a software update and would draw on knowledge gained through the development of the company’s new family of diesel engines.

Daimler said in May that German investigators had searched its offices in connection with investigations of Daimler employees because of suspicion of fraud and criminal advertising relating to the possible manipulation of exhaust controls in cars with diesel engines. The company has said it is cooperating with the investigation. The company was also asked by the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an internal probe into its exhaust emissions certification process. Company spokesman Joerg Howe said Tuesday he could not offer additional information about the two matters.

The Daimler announcement comes hours after the regional government in the company’s home region of Baden-Wuerttemburg agreed to abandon proposals to restrict diesels if older diesels could be mechanically fixed to pollute less, the dpa news agency reported.

The current debate over diesel was launched in September 2015 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation against Volkswagen. VW has said it used illegal engine-control software that detected when cars were on test stands. Emission controls were turned up during test and turned down during regular driving. Some 11 million cars worldwide were equipped with the software. The company pleaded guilty in the U.S. to criminal charges, eight executives were charged, and it agreed to pay more than $20 billion in criminal penalties and civil settlements.

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