BERLIN (Reuters) - The deputy parliamentary leader for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives said on Tuesday that the hard line taken by U.S. authorities against Volkswagen could give U.S. automakers a boost at the expense of their German rivals.

"Due to the massive claims against VW that are now out there, I'm starting to suspect that the American authorities are running the risk of pursuing an aggressive industrial policy that favors the U.S. automobile industry to the detriment of our German automobile industry," Michael Fuchs told Reuters.

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The U.S. Justice Department has sued Volkswagen for allegedly violating environmental laws. The claims could in theory total up to $48 billion.

(This story corrects the maximum penalty from $90 billion to $48 billion in the third paragraph)

(Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Noah Barkin)