VDA President at the IfA summit in Nürtingen: Worldwide need for mobility is growing – German automotive industry is highly innovative in digitization and connectivity – Powertrains need all technological options
“The worldwide need for mobility is growing all the time. The global population is increasing. For the defining megatrends – the demographic shift and urbanization – no mode of transport offers better fitting solutions than automobiles,” stated Bernhard Mattes, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). He was speaking at the industry summit organized by the research organization Institut für Automobilwirtschaft (Institute for the automotive industry, IfA) in Nürtingen on October 18, 2018.
Mattes stressed that the automotive sector was highly innovative, accounting for 40 percent of all patent applications from Germany. But at the same time he pointed out that “There is no guarantee of success tomorrow. This is because future growth will bring structural changes unlike anything we have experienced so far in the history of the automobile. There will be regional, economic and technological shifts.” Mattes added that the trend would be a move away from ownership to use only. As examples he mentioned new mobility services from manufacturers, suppliers and startups, such as car-sharing schemes and on-demand transport services.
The industry’s drive for innovation was also manifested in connected and automated driving, according to the VDA president. For example, during the next three to four years the companies in the German automotive sector would be investing 16 to 18 billion euros in this field of future development. The aim was, Mattes explained, to make road traffic even safer, more efficient and more convenient.
However, the automotive industry was putting most funding into low-emission forms of propulsion. “The German automotive industry will invest a total of 40 billion euros in electric mobility alone in the period up to 2020.” Here the shift to new powertrains represented a huge challenge not only for the OEMs but also for the supply firms. “Products and processes have to be made ready for the change. The firms have to keep on expanding their own competences,” Mattes explained.
When it came to electric mobility, the right regulatory conditions still had to be created, he said, adding: “There is an acute need for action to expand the private charging infrastructure. That can be illustrated by an international comparison: there are 0.22 charging points for every 1,000 inhabitants in Berlin, but 2.1 in Oslo and 2.5 in Amsterdam.” Facilitating the installation of private charging points would need adaptations in the law on rented and owner-occupied accommodation, the VDA president continued. But also Europe-wide there was still a lot to be done. For instance, 76 percent of all charging points in the EU were located in only four countries.
Alongside alternative powertrains, however, the German automotive industry was also backing further optimization of the combustion engine, Mattes explained. Here the lost trust had to be regained and the integrity of the industry ensured at all levels. The VDA president emphasized that the measures from the National Diesel Forum – software updates for diesel cars, trade-in bonuses and participation in the “Clean Air” fund – and the wide-ranging replacement program “New cars for old” or “Newer used cars for old” were making an important contribution.
Furthermore, according to the German Environment Agency (UBA), traffic-related nitrogen oxide emissions fell by 70 percent in the period from 1990 to 2015 despite the increasing amount of traffic. Simulations show that with the exception of five or six hotspots, all measuring stations will be below the limit values by 2020. “This is another reason why general vehicle bans are not a sure-fire solution.”
Allowing all technological options was the right approach, Mattes said, also for the CO2 regulation for passenger cars and vans. He commented: “Of course it is right for Europe to pursue ambitious climate goals. But at the same time, we must not lose sight of what is technologically feasible and economically expedient. Otherwise there will be considerable risks – for the plants and for the employees.” For successful climate protection, he added, it was necessary to maintain international competitiveness. This would require a joint effort on the part of industry and policy-makers.