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Automotive world about to change faster than ever before

VDA’s New Year Reception with over 650 guests – German automotive industry has convincing strategy for digitization, connectivity, emission reductions, electric mobility and alternative powertrains

in VDA, 30-01-2019


More than 650 high-ranking guests from politics, business, academia and the media attended the New Year Reception of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) in Berlin. They were welcomed by VDA President Bernhard Mattes. This was followed by a welcome address from Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer. The guests included numerous state secretaries and members of the German Bundestag, along with ambassadors and envoys from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine.

The VDA’s Managing Board was represented by Dr. Oliver Blume (Porsche), Dr. Daniel Böhmer (VDA Vice-president, Meiller), Arndt G. Kirchhoff (VDA Vice-president, Kirchhoff), Harald Krüger (BMW), Michael Lohscheller (Opel), Gertrud Moll-Möhrstedt (Akkumulatorenfabrik Moll), Wolf-Henning Scheider (ZF Friedrichshafen), Gero Schulze Isfort (Krone) and Dr. Stefan Wolf (ElringKlinger).

At the event the VDA said farewell to its Managing Director Klaus Bräunig, who is retiring after eleven years in the post. His successor will be Dr. Martin Koers, with effect from February 1, 2019.

Below we reproduce the statement delivered by VDA President Bernhard Mattes at the VDA’s New Year reception in Berlin:

“We are delighted to welcome the Federal Transport Minister here today. Minister Scheuer, last year was a stormy one for all of us. The low pressure zone has not yet passed by altogether, but there is more light showing on the horizon. However, it is not always clear whether it is lightning or the first sign of brighter weather. Keep a firm eye on your inner compass when the debate becomes heated. The needle must point to people’s needs, even in turbulent times, and that includes affordable individual mobility. We bear a common responsibility for the many employees in Germany who work in this key industry, at the manufacturers and at our many suppliers. For this reason, together with you we will continue struggling to find the best way forward for the future of mobility, for example in the field of digitization and connectivity.

“The world and the economy have to deal with huge uncertainties: the US under President Trump represents a challenge in many respects. Mexico has a new president who brings new uncertainties and new questions for the commitments in the country that is valued for its free trade. Europe’s reforms are not moving forward, and not only because the outcome of Brexit is still unknown. Economic growth – including that in Germany – is slowing down. Imports in China slumped by 7.6 percent in December, and in 2018 passenger car sales there fell significantly – for the first time in decades.

“Of course we don’t want to get into a situation where Ludwig Erhard would have said that it is better ‘to pray the economy back to health than to talk it into the ground.’ The fact that the German national economy shrank by 0.2 percent in the third quarter of 2018 is not great, but neither is it a disaster. Overall, the German economy is still growing. The German Government’s forecast for 2019 is very cautious.

“The German automotive industry is doing well. Around the world, the German OEMs produced 16.5 million passenger cars last year, 5.1 million of them in Germany. Our share of the global passenger car market is about 20 percent. In China we have actually pushed up our market share to 22 percent. In Germany our automotive industry has a turnover of 423 billion euros and employs a workforce of 834,500 – which is more than ever before. And over one million more people are employed at our international plants. The outlook for 2019 is characterized by many uncertainties in the overall political conditions and in the development of the global economy. We are tackling them fully aware of our strengths such as innovations, quality and global presence. In 2019 our worldwide passenger car production could even break through the 17 million mark. But to do that, we will need solutions this year for the most important trade topics. We continue to support free world trade. We therefore have major questions concerning Brexit. The EU and the UK still have to find a way of avoiding the worst case. Today it looks like history took an ironic turn when the Brexiteers won their slender majority by arguing that there was a lack of freedom inside the EU. And it is bitter that we apparently only recognize the value of freedom when we lose it.

“Our desiderata for 2019 also include regaining lost trust. We will do this with a convincing strategy for digitization, connectivity and emission reductions, for electric mobility and alternative powertrains. And with perfectly managed implementation. In the coming years the automotive world will change faster than ever before. In 2030 the automotive world will be different than it is today. We see this as a challenge, but above all we see it as an opportunity! Manufacturers and suppliers, large, medium-sized and small companies, will prove together that they are shaping this future themselves.

“Two years ago in the Bundestag election the slogan of the Greens was, ‘The future is made from courage.’ In this case I have to admit they were right. There is no doubt that our members are courageous. And they are full of confidence. They believe in the future. Why else would they invest many billions of euros in technologies, although nobody can say for sure how quickly they will pay off?

“The policymakers are also working on the future. When I look to Brussels, this is primarily in the form of regulations. And there’s nothing wrong with that, if we can expect practicable and reliable regulatory conditions. They must be transparent and comprehensible, and demonstrate a good balance between what is ecologically feasible and what is economically expedient. Just to avoid any misunderstanding – we all want further improvements in the air quality in towns and cities. And we are making a great effort to this end. But if we see that some people are less interested in clean air and more interested in attacks on individual mobility as a whole, the VDA will continue to raise its voice in 2019. And it will probably be louder than it was last year!

“Mobility must remain affordable. People need their cars and the railways, they need bicycles and car-sharing and many new forms of future mobility – not only to get to work, but also for an active social life. Therefore, we do not need any ‘crusades against cars,’ or populism or hysteria, but sensible approaches for forward-looking mobility both in urban and rural areas. The current discussion of the speed limit is part of this bigger picture. From our point of view, there aren’t any good arguments for a general speed limit.

“The CO2 regulation in Europe is also of key relevance. At this time, nobody knows how the CO2reduction targets for passenger cars are to be achieved by 2030 – without massive impacts on Germany’s industry and employment levels. Here ecology and economy are not in balance. We take an even more critical view of the European CO2 reduction requirements being discussed for heavy-duty commercial vehicles. I hope and expect that the European Commission and the European Parliament will become more open again to objective arguments and comprehensible facts from the automotive industry. We hope that the German Government will help avert future damage. And other political developments, like Brexit, are actually exacerbating this topic. If a queue of only 30 kilometers forms at the customs point in Calais or Dover, that will mean additional CO2 consumption of over 4,000 tonnes per year! And there will not just be this one queue.

“The German automotive industry has been working intensively for many years on decarbonizing road traffic. In the next three years it will double its range of e-models to 100. Over the same period it will invest 40 billion euros in alternative powertrains. It is the leader in patents on alternative propulsion. One third of the world’s patents in the field of electric mobility and hybrid drive come from Germany. We are convinced that the future of the car is largely electric – and it is digital. And we need the internal combustion engine – also for alternative fuels.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a decisive role on the path to automated and driverless driving. It offers the automotive industry enormous potentials: fewer accidents, smoother traffic flow, traffic management that learns, and connectivity with all modes of transport. Around half of the world’s patents for connected and automated driving come from German businesses, putting them at the top of the international ranking. Digitization also means that OEMs and suppliers are becoming mobility service providers, they are developing new mobility solutions. Car-sharing, ride-pooling, mobility platforms and mobility apps are just the beginning. We know that we can carry out this transformation successfully only if we take a multi-sector approach, if we cooperate with new partners. That is why we hear almost daily reports of new cooperative projects by German manufacturers or suppliers with hi-tech firms and IT companies.

“The mobility of the future can only pick up speed if appropriate general conditions are in place. In the case of electric mobility this means establishing and expanding a high-capacity charging infrastructure. For connected, automated and autonomous driving we need the relevant digital infrastructure. So there is still a lot to do – for the industry and for the policymakers!”



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