Automotive industry’s 12th quality summit in Leipzig – clear message about diesels
“German manufacturers and suppliers still produce top quality vehicles. This has not been changed by the events of recent months. The success of German quality managers in their day-to-day work can be seen from the quality and reliability rankings. For example, in the current TÜV Report 2016, the top three places all go to models from German premium manufacturers, despite very high mileages in some cases. The German brands also have a clear showing among the top ten. In the DEKRA Used Car Report, the top three in the category ‘Best of all Classes’ are all German models – and cars from German production are the winners in seven out of nine vehicle classes. These successes stand for the overall quality of the German automotive industry – the vehicle manufacturers and the suppliers alike. The good cooperation between them is the real secret of the German automotive industry’s success. We are proud to represent both groups in the VDA,” emphasized Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). He was speaking at the opening of the 12th quality summit meeting of the automotive industry, which is taking place at Porsche’s Leipzig plant on November 16 and 17, 2015. Rainer Bomba, State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, delivered a statement describing the main focal points in the German Government’s transport policy. The quality summit’s 250 participants were welcomed by Siegfried Bülow, chairman of the Management Board at Porsche Leipzig GmbH.
Right at the beginning of his speech, Wissmann spoke about VW and diesel vehicles: “The manipulation of software and emission information runs counter to the automotive industry’s self-image. The events must be cleared up completely and consistently. The manipulations have cost trust – in the company, in the entire industry and not least in diesel technology. It is understandable that customers and the public will wonder whether the ‘clean diesel’ is in fact dirty. From our point of view that is not the case.”
The VDA president stressed, “The important thing now is that all of us should use facts and arguments to combat dangerous generalizations reflected in the name of ‘dieselgate.’ One company’s infringements of the law do not justify a general suspicion of hundreds of suppliers and manufacturers involved in the diesel concept.” Diesels were not at the end of the road, Wissmann underscored: “On the contrary, Euro 6 diesels make a decisive contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. They achieve top values in the reduction of pollutants – and that includes driving on the roads.”
Wissmann added that the figures revealed the role played by diesels for the German automotive industry. “Half of all new cars registered in Western Europe are diesels. And half of all diesels sold in Western Europe bear a German badge,” he stated.
The technology had made “incredible progress” during recent decades, he said. “Diesel engines are very important factors in both of the main areas where we are working on ecology: first, the reduction of pollutants, soot particulates and nitrogen oxides, and second, the reduction of consumption and thus of CO2 emissions. We cannot and do not wish to forego diesel engines if we are to achieve our climate goals,” the VDA president emphasized.
He also drew attention to another point: “Consumption and emissions fluctuate a great deal in road traffic. The EU values are determined on the test bench in a legally prescribed procedure.” Deviations from the EU target values determined in this way, when vehicles are on the roads, were legal and unavoidable just because of the physics involved.
The main causes of such deviations, Wissmann explained, were varying driving styles and the traffic and weather conditions. The resulting bandwidth for consumption and emissions applied to all types of drive trains. A new and more realistic laboratory test – called the WLTP – and exhaust measurements on the road (RDE Regulation) were expected to reduce the differences between the test bench and road conditions in the future, he said. That would bring about clarity, safety and transparency for the customers.
Wissmann then turned to the topics of the quality summit and stressed that it was a special feature of the German automotive industry that it offered premium quality not only in the premium segment. And that had to remain so. Only with the consistent will for continual improvements to the systems, processes and products could the good reputation of this industry around the world be further consolidated and restored in those places where it had suffered.
Wissmann used two examples – the university initiative and the globalization strategy – to explain the work of the VDA’s Quality Management Committee (QMA). The QMA’s university initiative aimed to make stimuli flow from the automotive supply chain directly into university education. “Conversely, we can absorb academic findings and feed them into the work of the association,” Wissmann said.
The QMA’s university initiative had been expanded this year with the founding of the Automotive Quality Institute (AQI). “In the AQI we have created an organization that independently pushes forward the topics of the quality managers by applying know-how from the TU Berlin. This makes it possible to create one’s own research projects and proactively occupy topics. The first project is an overall concept for investigating damage and repairs to fiber composite materials,” Wissmann emphasized. The AQI’s managing director is Arnd Schaarschmidt, Head of Group Quality Assurance at Volkswagen AG and a member of the QM committee. Together with the endowed chair held by Prof. Robert Dust, he said, the university initiative was therefore in a good position in research and teaching. He added that the university initiative represented the second pillar in the QMA – alongside the working groups. In particular, the megatrend of connected and automated driving showed that additional tasks would be added to quality management.
On the subject of the globalization strategy Wissmann said, “Growth in vehicle production is especially strong on international markets. Our companies are increasingly having to adopt a global position. This applies not only to the large OEMs, but also to many small and medium-sized suppliers. For them it is not easy, although it is especially important, to go with their major business partners as they become more international.”
Wissmann explained that the VDA QMC had pursued an intensive path of internationalization. Despite some challenges during recent years, the commitment of the QMC on the international stage had proven to be the right thing: “Our activities in China and Russia, and the further expansion of the broad franchise network of the VDA QMC, are bearing fruit,” he said. China, the world’s largest passenger car market, still had enormous potential, and the market share going to the German group brands in China came to around 20 percent. “By founding an office there we have again expanded our activities in China,” the VDA president stressed.
The QMC would also continue its activities in Russia despite the difficult conditions at present and the weak demand. Wissmann underscored, “We are convinced that the Russian vehicle market will recover in the medium and long term.” The QMC was successfully propagating the established European quality standards and instruments, he said, adding that the goal was to win the contest of competing standards.
The VDA president also went into detail on electric mobility and connected and automated driving. By the end of this year 29 series models of electric cars from German manufacturers would be on the roads. Industry had, he explained, invested more than 17 billion euro in this field, with 12 billion euro coming from the automotive sector alone. This meant that Germany could also become the leading market for electric mobility, but this would require the right framework conditions. “It will not be possible without them, because it is clear that the home market is and will remain the industry’s showcase. Any value creation worth mentioning, and highly qualified jobs, will have a long-term future only at sites that serve a relevant local demand,” Wissmann emphasized, and added, “No country in the world has ever mastered the market ramp-up without an effective boost from policies.”
In addition to modern drive trains, Wissmann continued, digitization offered new opportunities: “Automated driving will help markedly reduce fuel consumption and emissions, limit the space needed for traffic, and improve safety,” he said. The vehicles of tomorrow would be connected – with other vehicles, with the environment, and with the Internet. Wissmann explained that the driver would be online all the time and would therefore receive information even faster. “Cars will warn one another of traffic problems. They will inform the vehicles behind if the road is icy or if a vehicle is stranded. Cars will see more than their drivers do, in a way peeking around the next corner.” And that would be important particularly in urban traffic, where the majority of accidents still occur that involve human injuries.
According to experts, human error was involved in 90 percent of all road accidents. In the future, however, the vigilant assistants could intervene if the driver’s attention is distracted. This could avoid many collisions altogether. Tedious searching for a parking spot in towns and cities would also become a thing of the past. “The systems will tell the driver in real time where there is a vacant space,” Wissmann stated. According to the Prognos institute, the time spent looking for a parking spot came to over half a billion hours per year in Germany alone. “If we can save a large portion of that time, it will be a huge benefit not only for motorists, but above all for the environment,” he said.
He went on to say that the German automotive industry also aimed to be the driver of innovation in connected and automated driving: “To this end, our companies spend a great deal of money. In the coming three to four years alone, the German manufacturers and suppliers will invest 16 to 18 billion euros in the research and development of connected and automated driving.
However, the VDA President pointed out that the automotive industry on its own would not be able to deal with the sea-changes accompanying digitization. This would be possible only in cooperation with other industries and sectors, and with supporting policies: “The benefit to the economy from intelligent mobility can be realized only if the technical and regulatory framework is adapted for the digital infrastructure and its use. Now we have to rapidly expand the required infrastructure. For this we need a common standard,” Wissmann emphasized, adding that it was necessary to have a reliable legal framework for all those involved both in the European context and in the global context. Furthermore, we should join forces and coordinate with policy-makers at national and international level to ensure that mobility will be safe, efficient and comfortable in the future.
To close, Wissmann expressed unequivocal support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which he said was “one of the very great strategic projects of our time.” The debate over TTIP had been made “highly emotional” and the number of critics was growing. “But we must not allow vague fears and half-truths, which some people are trying to spread, to permanently undermine our business location. Those who consciously and carelessly give free trade a bad name are also damaging those to whom Germany, with its economic strength, can lend a helping hand at this difficult time,” Wissmann underscored.