The automotive industry and politicians are in agreement on the objective of further improving air quality. Vehicle bans can and must be avoided in Germany. The manufacturers in the VDA have agreed to carry out swift and extensive upgrades for over 5 million diesel passenger cars in Germany. In addition, our manufacturers will contribute to the planned fund entitled “sustainable mobility for the city.” Together with the German Government and the federal states, we share the ambition that Germany should be the country of more viable and sustainable mobility – and remain so. At the same time the VDA appeals for a more objective debate, because alongside justified questions and criticism, sweeping general allegations are increasingly being leveled at diesel technology and the industry.
The automotive industry is aware that it has lost a considerable amount of trust. We must and will work on regaining this trust. That is a key concern of the sector – in its own interest, in the interest of our customers and employees, and in the interest of our country.
The German automotive manufacturers and suppliers have successful global operations. We have a special obligation to this country. Our industry currently has a regular workforce of over 817,000 people, which is the highest level for 25 years. Our huge value creation makes a decisive contribution to prosperity and social security in Germany. Our products are respected and in demand around the world. Never in their history have the manufacturers organized in the VDA produced more passenger cars than they did in 2016 (15.8 million cars worldwide, 5.7 million of them in Germany).
German passenger car makers are offering to voluntarily upgrade a large proportion of their Euro 5 diesel cars, and also some Euro 6 vehicles, by providing updated software. The aim of this initiative is to reduce the vehicles’ average nitrogen oxide output by 25 to 30 percent. That is a major contribution to improving air quality. Scientific studies show that this can bring down pollutant levels by at least as much as vehicle bans.
This means that including the 2.5 million diesel passenger cars already upgraded by Volkswagen in recent months, emissions can be greatly improved in more than 5 million vehicles in Germany alone. The upgrades will be carried out as soon as the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) gives its approval, on the identifiable passenger cars from the makers BMW, Daimler, Opel and Volkswagen. The OEMs have agreed that vehicle users will not have to pay for the upgrading, and that the process will not affect engine power, consumption or lifetime. This is possible due to the technical progress in exhaust treatment and engine management achieved during the last few years. This contribution by the German manufacturers is unique both in Europe and worldwide.
Furthermore, the German producers will launch their own incentives to drive forward replacement of older diesels in the fleet.
2. The future of mobility
Over the past 20 years our industry has strategically expanded its global presence, production and innovative strength. It takes almost one fifth of the world market, and the German makers have a similar share of the world’s largest passenger car market, China. In Europe one half of all newly registered cars are from a German group brand. Their share of the global premium market is over 70 percent.
Every year, the German automotive industry invests more than 39 billion euros worldwide in research and development (R&D), which puts it in first place ahead of its Japanese and US competitors.
German manufacturers and suppliers account for 35 percent of all German investment in R&D. No other sector invests more in research and development than the automotive industry. Its share of manufacturing (turnover) is about one quarter. The automotive trade surplus comes to 133 billion euros – which is over 50 percent of Germany’s total foreign trade surplus (252 billion euros). Germany is the world champion in exports owing to its automotive industry. Its investments in R&D concentrate on electric mobility (by 2020 around 40 billion euros will be invested in this field, and the number of e-models will treble from 30 to over 100) and digitization (16 to 18 billion euros over the same period), that is, connected and automated driving. Roughly one third of all patents anywhere in the world in electric mobility are from Germany. The presence of German companies in this area is underscored by their large shares of the electric mobility markets.
German manufacturers have decided voluntarily to establish a rapid charging infrastructure for e-cars on European freeways, in addition to the promotional activities of the German Government. The German automotive industry plays an active role in the urban mobility platform, together with a large number of German towns and cities. We aim to make selected towns and metropolitan areas in Germany beacons of modern mobility.
Furthermore, the vehicle makers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen are willing to participate in the German Government’s planned “sustainable mobility for the city” fund.
We welcome the fact that the German Government and the state premiers have made an explicit commitment to the principle of technology neutrality. A viable and sustainable mix of powertrains for the future will also include diesels. On average, modern diesel passenger cars have up to 15 percent lower CO2 emissions than comparable gasoline-powered cars, and their fuel consumption is up to 25 percent less. Since diesel cars from German manufacturers have been fitted with particle filters as standard for around ten years now, the issue of particulates from these vehicles has been resolved.
The nitrogen oxide emissions from road traffic fell by around 70 percent in Germany in the period from 1990 to 2015 (according to the Federal Environment Agency).
The NOx limit values prescribed by the European legislators for Euro 5 diesel cars and the first generation of Euro 6 diesel cars were achieved in a driving cycle on the test bench. However, real-world road traffic deviates markedly from this driving cycle that was prescribed by law for all manufacturers, which adversely affects emissions behavior. This deviation is now being tangibly reduced by the upgrades. A new legally prescribed value for real driving emissions (RDE) will come into force throughout Europe for new type-approvals of passenger cars as of September 2017. Therefore it is inappropriate to demand that all diesel passenger cars must meet the laboratory value on the road today. At the time when these vehicles were developed, neither the technology nor the legislation was that advanced.
The second generation of Euro 6 diesel cars makes the topic of NOx a thing of the past, as these vehicles have very low NOx emissions even on the road.
We welcome the fact that the German Government and the federal states are giving priority to avoiding general vehicle bans. This can put an end to the uncertainty among diesel drivers and on the automotive market. We need wide-ranging packages of air quality measures, which supplement the voluntary upgrading by German OEMs. A needs-based infrastructure policy for towns and cities must be added soon, along with rapid replacement of older taxis and buses in the vehicle fleet.