But Germany is divided over the issue and environmentalists lashed out at Mr Scheuer’s comments.
“The derogatory remarks made by Andreas Scheuer clearly show that the transport minister doesn’t care about road safety or climate protection,” Jürgen Resch, head of the activist group German Environmental Aid (DUH), said.
DUH is the organisation behind lawsuits which have forced several German cities to introduce bans on older diesel cars against local authorities’ wishes, and the group recently called for a national speed limit of 120kmp (74mph).
The diesel bans have been deeply unpopular with motorists, who say they are being made to pay for the mistakes of the car industry, and Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) has increasingly sought to take on the environmentalist group in recent months.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new CDU leader and Mrs Merkel’s anointed successor, accused DUH of carrying on a “crusade” against diesel and damaging the German car industry earlier this month.
At the CDU party conference in December, there were calls for DUH to be stripped of chairtable status.
Mr Resch on Monday accused the party of being beholden to the German car industry. “The CDU — which is clearly the Christian Diesel Union — is now the party of the car industry,” he told Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.