“The German automotive industry is setting itself the goal of consistently opening up fields for future development for mobility. Our manufacturers and suppliers want to set the technological benchmark. One major driver of innovation is the premium segment. Premium vehicles have made new, climate-friendly technologies possible and made driving safer – for all vehicle categories,” declared Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). He was speaking at the beginning of the VDA’s 15th Technical Congress at the BMW Welt in Munich. “The share of the global premium market going to German brands is 80 per cent. Premium vehicles are also hugely important in economic terms to Germany as an industrial location. At our passenger car manufacturers alone over 200,000 jobs depend on premium vehicles. That is 60 per cent of the workforce. Then there are also many jobs at suppliers,” Wissmann said.
With more than 500 participants, the VDA’s Technical Congress is the most important technology symposium in the European automotive industry. Top-ranking representatives from automotive manufacturers, suppliers, academia and politics are meeting on 21 and 22 March 2013 to discuss the subjects of “Environment, energy and electric mobility” and “Vehicle safety and electronics.”
The premium segment safeguards a considerable portion of the investments in research and development, the VDA president explained. “Every year our companies invest more than 20 billion euro, bringing visible success in vehicle safety and environmental protection. Models from German manufacturers lead the vehicle CO2 rankings. According to information from the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), in nine out of ten vehicle categories newly registered passenger cars from German group brands have, on average, lower CO2 emissions than their competitors. The number of German models emitting under 130 g/km CO2 has more than doubled just in the last two years, to 600. The average CO2 emissions from all passenger cars newly registered in Germany are now around 140 grams per kilometre,” Wissmann said.
However, the trend in CO2 values over recent years cannot simply be continued in linear fashion, the VDA president stated, because ever more complex and costly technology would be required as we approach the physical limits. In order to reach the European Commission’s target for the year 2020 for the European fleet, of 95 g CO2 per kilometre, a considerable proportion of cars would need alternative drive trains. It was essential to take that into account when formulating the regulation, Wissmann said, adding: “Useful and appropriate incentives have to be provided to drive innovations forward at speed. This will include corresponding levels of super-credits for the CO2 values of vehicles with alternative drive trains, similar to those applicable in China and in the USA.”
Wissmann called on European politicians to give their support to industry once more. In many European countries, he continued, the industrial contribution to gross value-added had been falling since 2000. In Italy it was just below 19 per cent, in Spain 17 per cent and in France actually less than 13 per cent. “An important component of Germany’s success is that we have stood by our strong industry,” the VDA president said. “Germany generates around 27 per cent of the gross industrial value-added in the EU. That is more than the United Kingdom and France taken together.” However, Germany’s current competitive advantage was no reason to sit back and relax. Wissmann went on to say, “We must do everything we can to preserve and defend the lead we have built up. Unit labour costs in Germany rose again sharply in 2012. Hiring temporary workers has also become far more expensive. We in the VDA are already rubbing our eyes over the proposals emerging as the election campaign starts in Germany: new taxation packages and rising costs due to excessive regulation represent additional burdens, which we cannot afford in Germany.”
Wissmann sees one key topic for the mobility of the future in connected driving. In future vehicles will communicate with one another, with the infrastructure and with the Internet. Estimates put the global total of networked cars that will be on the roads in 2016 at approx. 210 million – which means annual growth of 36 per cent. “Cars are undergoing a digital revolution. They fit seamlessly into the trend of mobile communication and availability. Cars are becoming all-rounders that know their drivers’ needs and provide support. The new technology can help satisfy people’s needs for mobility and transport more efficiently, avoid congestion and continue to improve road safety with innovative driver assistance systems, the VDA president said.
In his welcome address, Martin Zeil, Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology, emphasised the importance of the automotive industry for Bavaria’s economic strength. “Bavaria is a premium location for companies, and Bavaria’s most powerful workhorses are our vehicle-makers and their suppliers,” he stressed. The partnership between politics and industry was “exceptionally good” in Bavaria. “The huge export success of our companies underlines just how right it is to keep industrial production here and to foster it. Innovations by the automotive industry at the interface between ICT, the environment and mobility, along with new technological developments, are revolutionising road traffic. They offer our premium manufacturers and their suppliers from the most varied sectors excellent opportunities for raising their profiles as drivers of innovation and further expanding their leadership on the world market! I am convinced that technology and cars ‘Made in Bavaria’ will in future become even more attractive to customers from all over the world!” the minister stated.
In his keynote speech entitled “Future meets innovation” Dr Herbert Diess, Member of the Board of Management at BMW AG, Development, said, “BMW will revolutionise automobile construction with the BMW i. The BMW i is the first vehicle to combine a new driving pleasure with premium offers and sustainability. i-vehicles have a revolutionary architecture and a new, modern design language, and they compensate for the extra weight of the battery with extensive use of carbon-fibre composites. We are thus playing a major role in taking system development in the direction of greater electrification of the transmission.”
Wolfgang Dürheimer, Head of Technical Development at Audi, used his lecture to speak about the importance of motor racing as a driver of innovation. Racing circuits were the development laboratory for new safety and environmental technologies, he said. “At Audi we attach the greatest importance to transferring technology between motor racing and series production. And at the end of the day our customers benefit, especially in the area of sustainability,” he said.
The topics of “Environment, energy and electric mobility” and “Vehicle safety and electronics” are the two cornerstones of the VDA’s 15th Technical Congress. The speakers include – alongside Wissmann, Dr Diess, Dürheimer and Minister Zeil – Claudia Horn, section head at the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs (BMVBS), Dr Christoph Grote, Head of Research and Technology at BMW AG, Dr Ralf Cramer, Member of the Executive Board at Continental AG, Division Chassis and Safety, Prof. Herbert Kohler, Vice President Group Research and Sustainability and Chief Environment Officer at Daimler AG, Prof. Emilio Frazzoli, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr Peter Morfeld, Head of the Institute for Occupational Epidemiology and Risk Assessment (IERA) at Evonik Services GmbH, and Andreas Ostendorf, Vice President – Sustainability, Environment & Safety Engineering at Ford of Europe.
The congress programme can be downloaded from: www.vda.de. Attendance is free of charge for journalists.