Press releases

Wissmann: German automotive industry drives jobs and innovations

Berlin, 30 January 2018

VDA New Year Reception with 700 guests – Necessary to consider all technology options for the mobility of tomorrow – Industry facing new challenges

Around 700 high-ranking guests from politics, business, academia and the media met in Berlin for the New Year Reception of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). Christian Schmidt, the acting Federal Transport Minister, delivered a welcome address. The guests included numerous state secretaries and members of the German Bundestag, plus ambassadors and envoys from Brazil, France, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Many members of the VDA’s Managing Board also attended: Dr. Daniel Böhmer (VDA Vice-president, Meiller), Dr. Oliver Blume (Porsche), Dr. Rolf Breidenbach (Hella), Dr. Elmar Degenhart (Continental), Gunnar Herrmann (Ford), Arndt G. Kirchhoff (VDA Vice-president, Kirchhoff) Harald Krüger (BMW), Michael Lohscheller (Opel), Gertrud Moll-Möhrstedt (Akkumulatorenfabrik Moll), Matthias Müller (Volkswagen), Andreas Renschler (Volkswagen Truck & Bus), Gero Schulze Isfort (Krone), Jürgen Spier (Spier), Prof. Rupert Stadler (Audi) and Dr. Stefan Wolf (ElringKlinger).

The statement delivered by VDA President Matthias Wissmann at the VDA’s New Year Reception in Berlin is reproduced below:

“I readily admit that this evening is a special one for me. This is the eleventh and last time I will host this event. As most of you know, at the beginning of the year I announced that I will be leaving when my contract with the VDA comes to an end in the spring. And the VDA’s Managing Board has just unanimously elected my successor. He will be familiar to you as the long-serving Chairman of Ford in Germany and the current President of AmCham. He is not only a real connoisseur of our industry, but also an experienced and internationally connected representative of the interests of the German manufacturers and suppliers. It is my pleasure to welcome Mr. Bernhard Mattes most warmly and I ask you not only to welcome him with a suitable round of applause but also, in view of the challenges facing our industry, to show him the same trust that I have enjoyed over the past eleven years.

The VDA is a place for debate, discussion and frequently also for critical discussion. Yet we all pursue the same goal: to maintain the German automotive industry where it is and where it belongs – at the forefront of technology.

In recent years, we as an association have had huge challenges to overcome. Right at the beginning of my term in office, we faced a major test with the crisis in the banking sector and the global economy. Businesses, politicians and trade unions all pulled together. And together we succeeded in averting the worst outcomes for the German automotive industry. We kept our highly qualified workforces, and despite the hurricane that swept over us we did not stop investing in research and development.

In the years that followed, the policymakers opened the door for long-distance buses and long trucks and have always ensured acceptable overall conditions for the automotive industry.

I would like to thank the representatives of the democratic parties, the authorities and the other associations for their constructive criticism over a period of many years and also for their support on certain topics. Some events of the last two years have not made it easy for you to continue your committed support for our industry. I can assure you that this sector has learned from the mistakes of the past. It faces up to its responsibility. And especially in view of the latest headlines, I will add that the companies concerned have rapidly and emphatically distanced themselves from those events and activities. That is also the position of the VDA. This industry is evidently more aware that we always have to act within the confines of social and ethical responsibility – without paralyzing the drive for innovation – and it puts this principle into practice. We all know that without an ethical basis, no future will be gained.

However, at the same time we refute any unjustified attempt to cast a general suspicion on this key industry.

I am therefore asking you to stay with us – we need your critical advice and also your support.

We can state with self-confidence that never before were so many people employed in the automotive industry in Germany – over 820,000 in the regular workforce. We struggle and work for their future, and for this reason the VDA will also need your goodwill in the years to come.

Despite the mistakes of individual companies and many negative news stories in the last two years, it is still true that for the rest of the world, Germany stands for football and cars. And we can be proud of both.

However, it is clear that not everything is rosy. The challenges remain large because we see a gap that is getting wider: on the one hand the worldwide risks are growing, if we look at Iran, North Korea, the US, Russia – and even Europe for example Brexit or the conflict over Catalonia. On the other hand, we live in times of economic prosperity. Our market share in China, the largest passenger car market in the world, is around 20 percent. The global passenger car market has expanded by about half since 2007. In 2018 it will exceed 86 million units. And in the following years we may expect further growth.

We are doing the most beautiful pirouettes on the ice, achieving top grades – in the knowledge that things are boiling under the surface.

Consequently Germany needs a stable government that is always capable of taking action in our current times of uncertainty. And one that can explain to the world how Europe should progress.

So I am pleased that the SPD’s party conference voted to start discussions on a government coalition, even if we as the industry are not jubilant about everything in the documents.

Our companies are assuming responsibility, too. The automotive industry is important for Germany as a business location. We are an engine that drives jobs and innovations. Whether it’s connected and automated driving, synthetic fuels or mobility services, our firms are active in all areas – and most of them are right on the ball.

All technology options should be considered for the mobility of tomorrow

We support the climate goals in the Paris Agreement. Yet I ask all political representatives this evening to let us find the way there by ourselves. We believe all technology options should be considered. Requirements stipulating particular technologies in advance, and bans, will not get us anywhere. The key question for us is: how do we shape the mobility of tomorrow to make it climate-friendly? The German automotive industry is working continually on making further reductions in the CO2 emissions from their vehicle fleets.

Demanding CO2 Regulation for passenger cars

All our vehicles, whether they run on gasoline or diesel, are becoming more economical all the time and thus more environmentally friendly. At the same time politicians keep setting new reduction targets. Last November the European Commission put forward proposals for a CO2 Regulation for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles for the period after 2021. This requires the OEMs to bring down CO2 emissions from their new vehicle fleets by 30 percent by 2030. That is no small feat. One reason for this is that the Government’s proposal lumps passenger cars and light commercial vehicles together.

In order to make progress on reducing CO2 similar to what we have already achieved, the market for e-vehicles will have to pick up speed. That is a joint task for politics and industry, and our companies are providing the basis: over the next two to three years they will treble the number of electric vehicle models on offer to over 100. Around one third of all patents anywhere in the world in the field of electric mobility (34 percent) and hybrid drive (32 percent) come from Germany. Electric cars are expected to account for 15 to 25 percent of new passenger car registrations in 2025. But conversely this means that a large proportion of vehicles will still use an internal combustion engine.

The automotive industry contributes to improving air quality

When I say our industry assumes responsibility, that also applies to the question of air pollution control. We know the pressure that is on towns and cities in connection with this topic, and in cooperation with the Government, the federal states and the municipalities, we are making our contribution to improving the situation:

  • We are installing free software updates in over 5 million diesel passenger cars.
  • BMW, Daimler and the Volkswagen Group are participating pro rata according to their market shares in the German Government’s planned fund “Sustainable mobility for the city” that is intended to include 250 million euros from industry.
  • We have launched a “Cities initiative.” That means we have approached the cities that currently still have especially critical NOx values. Together we are looking for solutions as to how air quality can be improved in each city in the short term. This ranges from rapid fleet replacement and expanding the industry’s car-sharing offers, to improving traffic management by means of the “green wave” and digitization.
  • The companies themselves are also pursuing new paths. For instance they are offering more types of job tickets, introducing more opportunities for working from home, and promoting ride shares.
  • In 2016 the VDA already started the ‘Platform for Urban Mobility’ in which companies and towns and cities are developing joint projects to make mobility in metropolitan areas efficient, environmentally friendly and safe in the future.

Today we can see initial success in the nitrogen oxide values:

  • At Stuttgart’s Neckartor the number of hours with exceedances of the hourly mean in 2017 was kept within the permitted 18 for the first time. The limit value of 200 µg NO2/m3 was exceeded only three times.
  • In Munich, too, levels complied with the hourly mean, and the annual mean value has at least improved.
  • The air in Berlin also continues to make progress. Some Berlin measuring stations recorded nitrogen oxide values that are above the annual limit value but still a long way below those at hotspots in Stuttgart and Munich.

The air quality in the cities is gradually improving. Obviously vehicle replacement and the German OEMs’ wide-ranging package of measures agreed at last year’s diesel summit are having good effects. I am convinced that we are on the right path.

2018 will be an exciting year for politicians, for the automotive industry and not least for the VDA. Now I am looking forward to hearing from today’s guest of honor. Please join me in welcoming Federal Minister Christian Schmidt.”

Eckehart Rotter
Eckehart Rotter Head of Department Press

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