VDA President at Handelsblatt Automotive Summit –
Heavy investment in R+D – Global leader in patents – Rising market shares on important electric car markets
“The German automotive industry leads in the cutting-edge topics of digitization and electric mobility. And it is consistently driving innovations forward: no other industry invests more in research and development. Every year our companies spend over 39 billion euros worldwide, which makes them global leaders, ahead of their Japanese and US competitors. Our vehicle manufacturers and suppliers account for 35 percent of all German R+D investment,” stressed Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). He was speaking at the Automotive Summit 2017 organized by the German business newspaper Handelsblatt in Sindelfingen, together with Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, and Sven Afhüppe, co-editor-in-chief of the Handelsblatt.
Wissmann explained that the R+D investments were focusing on electric mobility: “By 2020, German manufacturers and suppliers will have spent around 40 billion euros in this field. The number of electric models will treble over the same period, rising from 30 to over 100. At the same time, the German automotive industry is investing 16 to 18 billion euros in digitization, i.e. connected and automated driving. Digitization will lead to a marked reduction in the number of accidents – with greater safety, more comfort, less congestion and stop-and-go traffic, and lower emissions of pollutants and of CO2.”
“Self-driving cars are often associated with American technology giants. Yet most of the patents are held by German companies,” said Wissmann. According to a study by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW), German firms are especially innovative: “German manufacturers account for 52 percent of the world’s patents for autonomous driving.” Six of the top ten places go to companies from Germany – four OEMs and two suppliers. By contrast, new US competitors such as Tesla and Apple do not yet have a significant number of patents, although Google is a major player. The study put Bosch in first place, with 958 patents, ahead of Audi (516) and Continental (439). BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler are also among the top ten firms filing patents for autonomous driving. With 338 patents since 2010, Google came in tenth. Wissmann said, “All the same, no-one in our industry is going to rest on their laurels because of this good situation.”
“The patent statistics highlight the outstanding position of our industry in electric mobility, too,” Wissmann said. Roughly one third of all patents worldwide for electric mobility came from Germany, he explained, along with one patent in three in the field of all-electric mobility (34 percent) and hybrid drive (32 percent). This information relates to the period from 2010 to 2015.
“A glance at the market shares reveals just how successful this innovation strategy is. In Western Europe the German manufacturers increased their share of the electric car market from 47 percent to 52 percent during the first eight months of 2017,” Wissmann stated. This means they pushed up their share of the two largest markets: from 56 to 60 percent in Norway, and from 59 to 63 percent in Germany. In Belgium the German market share rose from just over 50 percent to 76 percent. With the exception of China, which is dominated by domestic car makers. on all large markets like Western Europe, the US and Japan the share of the electric car market going to the German OEMs is larger than their share of the overall passenger car market. Wissmann said, “This is evidence that the German OEMs are even more successful with electric cars than they are with conventional propulsion systems.”
“In Germany, too, the electric mobility is showing welcome growth,” Wissmann emphasized. For example, in September the number of new registrations of electric cars (BEVs, PHEVs and fuel cell cars) climbed by 76 percent, setting a new record of 5,393 units. This year so far, new electric car registrations have more than doubled to 36,923 (+116 percent). Wissmann added that the environment bonus was driving up the demand.
“The automotive industry is a major pillar of Germany’s success – both nationally and internationally,” he underscored. “The German auto makers and suppliers are active and successful around the globe. And we have a special obligation to this country. Our high value generation makes a key contribution to prosperity and social security in Germany. The regular domestic workforce in our sector has increased to over 817,000 (January to August 2017), which is the highest level for 25 years. Compared with the same period last year, that represents 11,400 newly created jobs,” the VDA president said.
“However, we need accessible markets if we want to continue our success in the future. Three out of four cars we produce in Germany are exported. The automotive trade surplus amounts to 133 billion euros and therefore makes up more than 50 percent of the total German foreign trade surplus, which comes to 252 billion euros. The automotive industry makes Germany a world champion in exports,” Wissmann stressed.
Last year, the German OEMs built more passenger cars than ever before. Worldwide a total of 15.8 million new vehicles rolled off the production lines, 5.7 million of them in Germany. “During the past 20 years, our industry has strategically expanded its global presence, production and innovative strength. Today it takes almost one fifth of the total global market, and German manufacturers have a similar share in China, the world’s largest passenger car market. In Europe, half of newly registered cars bear a German badge. And our share of the global premium market actually exceeds 70 percent,” Wissmann said. He added that the German automotive industry was doing everything it could to continue consolidating and expanding its good market position, and emphasized that the same applied to electric mobility and digitization.