Mercedes-Benz is disputing whether or not the devices are indeed illegal, but would not confirm how many vehicles they were installed in.
According to the authorities, the cars use an illegal shut-off device that reduces exhaust gas cleaning when the vehicles are being driven normally on the road.
In a statement issued on Monday, the German transport ministry said: 'The government will order 238,000 Daimler vehicles to be immediately recalled Germany-wide because of unauthorised defeat devices'.
The move mostly affects Vito vans and diesel-powered versions of GLC 4x4s and C-class sedans, Scheuer added. In a report uncovered by Reuters, a local news source found that the country's Federal Motor Transport Authority (known as the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, or KBA) discovered five "illegal switch-off devices" on Daimler vehicles. Last year, Mercedes-Benz retrofitted roughly 3 million cars with modified emissions controls to bring those cars into compliance with Euro 5 and Euro 6 regulations.
Recent weeks have seen Germany´s KBA vehicle licensing authority hit Volkswagen subsidiaries Audi and Porsche with mass recall orders over their engine control software, as well as a smaller batch of cars from rival BMW.
Daimler has already announced a voluntary recall of three million diesels to install a software fix meant to reduce emissions.
It's now unclear how many models in the United Kingdom are impacted.
Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said on Monday that the carmaker had found a technical solution for updating the software on its vehicles, and he therefore expected the company to avoid a fine. A spokesman for the company declined to comment on specifics regarding the case, but said: "We are cooperating to a full extent and transparently with the KBA and the federal transport ministry".
Ellinghorst estimated the cost to Daimler to be less than 100 million euros.
In a separate statement, Daimler confirmed the recall and said the question over the legality of the software would still need to be clarified.