The cost of updating cars could amount to as much as 1.5 billion to 2.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion to $2.8 billion), and the ministry is demanding that vehicles with engines conforming to the euro-4, euro-5 and euro-6 standards be part of the recall, government sources said.
The German government has demanded that the auto industry shoulder the costs of the update and is pushing for a solution to be presented before German elections on Sept. 24.
The ministry is in talks with German auto industry associations VDA and VDIK as well as representatives from local governments to try and cut nitrogen oxide pollution by about 25 percent, the sources said.
The talks come amid growing opposition to diesel in the wake of an emissions cheating scandal at Volkswagen. Several European cities including Stuttgart and Munich have considered banning some diesel vehicles because of emissions of nitrogen oxides, which are blamed for causing respiratory disease.