VDA New Year Reception - Diesel necessary to meet CO2 targets – Holding Europe together
“In Germany, the automotive year 2015 finished with a strong sprint. For the first time in six years the level of 3.2 million new car registrations was exceeded. With an increase of 9 per cent, Western Europe’s automobile market showed its highest growth in over 25 years. The ‘positive list’ can be continued for Germany’s general economic situation as well. Employment is at a record level, tax revenues are buoyant, and consumer spending is booming.
We can be happy about this for the moment. However, this delight can soon prove deceptive. This is because the current situation is based essentially on low oil prices and current interest levels. Sustainable growth of Germany’s competitiveness is quite a different picture.
That is why there is no reason to lean back. It would be fatal to say ‘everything’s running fine’. We must make Germany fit for the future today. This means providing safe energy at competitive prices, expanding the transport infrastructure and digitization, maintaining flexibility on the labour market and thus leaving companies air to breathe. And that means getting ready for fresh competition for locations for our production capacities and our future employment situation here in Germany. The major challenges are not behind us, but ahead of us”, stressed Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) at the VDA New Year Reception in Berlin.
Speaking to over 500 high-ranking guests from the fields of politics, business and academia – including German Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt (who also spoke at the Reception as guest of honour), many State Secretaries and Members of the German Bundestag, as well as the ambassadors from Argentina, Brazil, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Hungary – Wissmann said, “For the German automotive industry, the past year was like the weather in April. From sunshine to storm clouds and even hailstones, we had everything. On the sunny side we again saw an increasing number of permanent workforces. Today, in Germany alone, we have nearly 15,000 more core employees than we had a year ago. Altogether the workforce totals 800,100.”
On the other hand, the “storm” that had concerned the VDA most in the past months had been the consequences of tampering with software. Wissmann said firmly, “Let me make it clear. Defeat devices for tampering with tests are illegal and contrary to what we believe in. Now it is important to investigate and clarify matters, provide good customer service and create new structures. We wish the new VW management all the very best in mastering this difficult task.”
Turning to German Transport Minister Dobrindt, Wissmann said: “We shall provide constructive support to you and the EU Commission on your way to creating a better test regime and securing the integrity of the processes. We ourselves are deeply interested in this.”
However, he added: “I have a request here. Please do not form any sweeping judgement about the automotive industry and its workforce of over 800,000 in Germany alone on the basis of these incidents! In addition to this, we need to work together to stand up against any discrediting of diesel technology. The tampering with software has nothing to do with diesel technology as such. That is why we need to draw attention more to the benefits of diesel for reducing CO2 emissions.”
This will not be possible overnight, it requires time. Wissmann: “But, it is important. The Climate Summit in Paris committed itself to the goal of reducing CO2 outputs in order to make a substantial contribution to global climate protection. It is quite clear that if we say yes to climate protection, we must also say yes to diesel engines. That is why we need diesels. If only diesel vehicles were registered in Germany from now on, simply through the new vehicles per year we would save as much CO2 as a small town with a population of 60,000 emits each year.”
That is why the German and European automotive industry is adhering to diesel technology. “We are convinced that diesel vehicles can show off their advantages not only in the form of fuel consumption levels and hence in CO2 emissions. With the latest in modern exhaust technology, specifically Euro VI, they can also keep to the most demanding pollutant limit values. And they can do this legally, without any tricks”, stressed the VDA President.
“It is also clear that the diesel vehicle is not the end of the automotive alphabet. In order to achieve the climate protection goals, our companies are investing billions of Euros in research and development into alternative drive systems”, said Wissmann.
Last year alone, the German automotive industry brought ten new e-models onto the market. Altogether, the German automotive industry presented 29 electrically powered series production models. According to McKinsey’s Electric Vehicle Index, Germany together with China and Japan is among the most important manufacturing countries for electric vehicles. Wissmann: “The market success enjoyed by the German manufacturers with their electric automobiles in the USA is particularly encouraging. Within one year they have more than doubled their market share and increased it from 9 to a good 20 per cent.”
In order to achieve the necessary market penetration in Germany too, it will be necessary for politicians to create intelligent incentives that stimulate and promote the industry. “I am glad that the debate has been taken up again in the past days and weeks”, stated Wissmann.
He went on to say that German companies were leaders in the second major innovation trend too – networked and automated driving. Wissmann: “There are a few hurdles to be taken before we can use all the benefits of the new mobility. We have to rely on support from politicians for this.”
Wissmann also spoke about the refugee crisis. “In all the discussions I have had with our member companies in recent months, at some stage talk has turned to the topic of refugees. Regardless of whether I was talking to major industrial groups or small and medium-sized enterprises – companies had started their own refugee initiatives, for instance via internships or language courses and other measures. There are many positive examples and our members are continuing their efforts.”
However, he added, alongside the language barrier there were also cultural obstacles. “It is part of the integrity of a state to protect its constitutional interests. It can be seen quite plainly that we were not always successful in this in the past months. Social stability and confidence in the state on the part of the people are prerequisites for integration” said Wissmann, adding that the refugee crisis was not a German challenge but a European challenge.
However, many citizens had gained the impression that things were not moving properly at the European level. “The entire Europe project is currently in troubled waters. That is why it is one of the prime tasks of politicians to maintain European cohesion. This year we must do everything to help the British to decide to stay in the European house. And we must convince our neighbours in the East, the new Government in Poland, that they should stop hacking away at the European value foundations. Europe must consist of more than conferences and fine words. Europe needs states that work hand in hand. Let us work hand in hand with the politicians in Germany for these important common goals in 2016”, concluded Wissmann.