Press Releases

Wissmann at the opening of the 67th IAA Cars

Frankfurt Main/Berlin, 14 September 2017

Speech delivered by Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), at the opening of the 67th IAA Cars

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you can see, the young generation asks smart questions.

And we are yet not able to answer all of them in detail today.

However, one thing is clear:

Tomorrow, mobility will be even more individual and more personal.

Freedom, identity, emotion – all these things will also be in demand tomorrow.

Digitization, alternative powertrains, electric mobility, new mobility concepts –

we are right in the middle of a high-speed race.

A race of innovations, which is made tangible at this IAA.

“Future now”! That is the right leitmotiv.

Whether it’s manufacturers and suppliers,

automotive businesses, IT and technology firms,

established players and startups,

this IAA leaves the traditional sector boundaries behind.

228 world premieres.

64 European premieres.

32 German premieres.

This is your impressive work. I am delighted to be able to welcome such a large number of leading corporate representatives to this IAA opening ceremony. A very warm welcome to you all, and to the works council members and employee representatives!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To all our international guests and partners from abroad I would like to extend a particularly warm welcome. We especially welcome our partners and exhibitors from Asia. We are very pleased to have you here in Frankfurt, some of you for the first time.

Federal Chancellor Merkel, I am particularly delighted and honored to welcome you today in our midst. Your visit here right in the middle of the election campaign – is an important sign for us. Today dialog is more important than ever.

Chancellor Merkel, in recent weeks and months we have not always made things easy for you. These months have been full of criticism and mistrust of our sector. For this reason I would like to use this opportunity, while you are with us, to clarify the following points once again:

In some companies in our industry – both at home and abroad – serious mistakes have been made.

Mistakes that should not have happened.

Mistakes that contradict our industry’s self-image.

Mistakes that we have recognized and which we will tackle with the greatest thoroughness.

We are aware that trust has been lost. Regaining this is a matter of key importance for us. Chancellor Merkel, on behalf of all those who bear responsibility in the industry, I can say that we want not only to solve technical issues in the best possible way. We consider it equally important to have integrity at all levels.

Please be assured that the responsible persons in our companies are critically questioning themselves. The great majority – small and large enterprises alike – are sensitized to maintaining their high level of integrity. Others are working consistently on dealing with the errors and drawing the necessary conclusions.

Yet there is no justification for sweeping universal judgments about the automotive industry. The facts demand differentiation – not least in the interest of over 815,000 employees at our manufacturers and suppliers, who put in hard and honest work day in, day out.

Of course we also have the task of making further improvements in the quality of our urban air. For example, the German passenger car makers have pledged to upgrade over 5 million diesels in Germany. The aim is to reduce the nitrogen oxide emissions from these vehicles by an average of 25 to 30 percent.

The trade-in bonuses offered by many vehicle makers are an additional visible sign of vehicle replacement in Germany. Pushing forward fleet renewal and bringing the most advanced Euro 6 vehicles onto the roads – in this way technological progress can make an immediate and effective contribution to better air quality and to climate protection. These strategies are far more innovative than universal driving bans.

It is important that the debate is conducted in a rational, objective and differentiated manner. To this end, Federal Chancellor, I ask for your kind support.

To us it is clear that modern diesels are an essential part of a sustainable mix of drive trains, which is to be viable in the future. The latest technology shows that the limit values for pollutants are satisfied– both on the test bench and on the roads.

Furthermore, diesels consume up to 25 percent less fuel and have much better CO2 values than comparable gasoline vehicles. In the long term in particular, diesels will be irreplaceable for long-distance traffic.

Today the air in German towns and cities is cleaner than ever before and far better than that in many other countries around the world. Road traffic emissions here are currently 70 percent lower than they were at the beginning of the 1990s – even though the volume of traffic has grown considerably over the same period. That is a major success.

And the progress is accordingly measurable that we achieve regarding the extremely challenging European clear air regulations. In 2017, the measurements from traffic on German roads will satisfy the hourly limits for the first time. That is also evidence of positive developments.

What is left is only the average NO2 limit value that is exceeded at certain individual measuring sites. But here a comparison throws up questions: whereas the limit is 40 micrograms on the roads, the guideline value for offices is 60 micrograms. And the limit value for workplaces in commerce and industry is 950 micrograms.

Is it possible to speak of a sensible regulatory concept when in some cases the indoor level is much higher, and far higher values are actually permitted by law? Does this situation really justify applying vehicle bans that impinge on property and mobility?

In addition, the EPA in the US, which is not regarded as pro-industry, proposes a moderate limit value of 100 micrograms for the roads. If this was applied in Germany, there would be no relevant exceedances.

The fascinating future options include running internal combustion engines on climate-neutral fuels one day. E-fuels are produced using renewable sources of energy, such as solar power and wind. Their production binds about the same amount of CO2 as they release upon combustion.

At this time the German Energy Agency (dena) is conducting a study of this topic. The results will be available shortly, but it is already apparent that e-fuels can make an important contribution to traffic being climate-neutral in the long term.

At this point we should also not forget natural gas propulsion – a combustion technology that is also praised by environmental organizations.

Under the bottom line, this means that internal combustion engines still have enormous potential. Those who wish to leave it unused are putting ideology above environmental and climate-policy considerations!

It is obvious that no matter whether large or small, manufacturer or supplier – every individual company in this industry aspires to play a part in shaping the huge changes. So at present there is not a single business model that is not being questioned. No-one is sticking to the status quo. No-one wants to be left behind. Sea-changes are therefore already taking place in the companies.

Given the dimensions of these shifts, it is all the more important to have politically smart measures flanking the technological transformation process. In Europe the manufacturers and suppliers have long had inextricable ties stretching over national borders.

You, Vice President Šefčovič and Commissioner Bulc, and the entire EU Commission, have a crucial responsibility with regard to the approaching regulations.

“Being open to technology” is an essential aspect for us. But however enthusiastic we are about electric mobility, we should be very cautious with regulatory one-way streets.


Electric mobility is the major focus of corporate R&D investments.


The German automotive industry alone will spend around 40 billion euros on electric mobility by 2020. During the same period, the German vehicle makers will more than treble their portfolio of e-cars – from today’s 30 models to nearly 100.


There has also been great progress in fuel cells, which represent another component in the mobility of tomorrow.


But it is also plain that without a functional infrastructure, electric mobility will not achieve the breakthrough onto the mass market. We in Germany and Europe have to continue the work in this area with determination. The tasks arising in the regions and municipalities are sure to be very familiar to both of you, State Premier Bouffier and Lord Mayor Feldmann. May I also bid you a very warm welcome at this point.


A look at the number of charging stations per 1,000 inhabitants throws the challenge into sharp relief. In this field Frankfurt is somewhere in the middle by national comparison, with a value of less than 0.1. Berlin and Hamburg have values of over 0.2. However, other international cities are far ahead of that. Oslo and Amsterdam are both a long way over 2, and San Francisco has almost 4 charging points for every 1,000 inhabitants.


In short, we still have a lot of work to do.


Zero emissions: that is our visionary goal for a mobile future.

Zero accidents is another one.

The path to achieving these goals leads via digitization. Making full use of its opportunities and potentials will require new forms of cooperation spanning several sectors.


Carmakers, IT and technology firms – we can all learn a great deal from one another. We can merge our know-how in order to develop the best solutions for our customers.


This approach is not nebulous theory, but is actually put into practice – this, too, is proved at this IAA. And one especially impressive sign of it is your presence:


Sheryl Sandberg, it is a great pleasure for all of us to have you here. Facebook is one of our industry’s important partners – and not only with respect to the New Mobility World.


Self-driving cars are one of the most important use cases for artificial intelligence. Pushing the boundaries of what cars can do – that is our common challenge.


The fact that large IT and technology firms have presentations here underscores the IAA’s orientation. Over 250 businesses and organizations are represented at the New Mobility World. And a large number of innovative startups are here too – competing against one another in the NMW Lab17 startup contest.


Disruptive, innovative and open to dialog – these are the virtues required of a successful mobility service provider. But bringing digitization onto the roads also demands not least new political frameworks.


Federal Minister Dobrindt,

We are very grateful to you for your commitment to making Germany the leading market for connected and automated driving. Together, we are moving forward in seven-league boots and encountering many new questions. The Ethics Committee you set up demonstrates that you are nothing less than an international pioneer here.


Automated and digitized driving functions promise new opportunities for improved efficiency and improved safety – especially for our metropolitan cities. Here safety is naturally always the top priority. And you can experience what this will be like in practice, right here at the IAA – on the central open-air site called the Agora.


Today cars are already inconceivable without connectivity. This demands innovative concepts that simultaneously provide sufficient protection – for the vehicles, for the hardware, and of course for the data, too. The companies have recognized this and are pushing their investments forward accordingly.


Regarding the data generated within the vehicle, the German auto industry has achieved a seminal success: under the VDA umbrella, its OEMs and suppliers have jointly designed a system enabling data to be supplied in a free market with fair competition. This is the fertile ground where an innovative ecosystem for new innovations can arise.


You can see the diverse range of topics that our companies are driving forward. This IAA comes at exactly the right time for the automotive industry. It offers an excellent opportunity to approach both the general public and the customers. We want to use our capabilities to build up new trust in our sector.


The IAA 2017 is an invitation to discussions in extremely confusing times.

A shared, courageous bet on the future.

Eckehart Rotter
Eckehart Rotter Head of Department Press

Tel: +49 30 897842-120 Fax: +49 30 897842-603
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