In view of the high diesel and petrol prices, Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), has warned against making individual mobility even more expensive. “Right now, during the holiday period, the consumers will once again have to reach deep into their pockets,” Wissmann said. “Driving must not become a privilege of the rich, but must also be affordable for people on normal incomes. Therefore it is unacceptable to add pressure by raising prices.”
Wissmann was speaking out against the most recent demands for passing on an even greater share of the costs of building and maintaining traffic routes to the users, along with congestion, accident and environmental costs. “So-called ‘external costs’ of the road network must not be misused as a pretext for making driving dearer,” the VDA president stressed. He added, “Motorists already stump up over 50 billion euro every year in taxes and other levies. Less than one third of this – around 15 billion euro – feeds back into the roads. The difference, about 35 billion euro, would be sufficient to cover other social costs of road traffic.” For example, the Cologne Institute for Business Research (IW) has calculated that Germany’s annual external costs from road traffic – including freight – come to 38 billion euro. “Therefore road traffic is one of the areas where the external costs have already been more than internalised,” Wissmann stated.
Instead of adding burdens for transport and individual traffic, measures should be taken to reduce the negative overall economic effect, such as structural noise protection, low-noise road surfaces and the needs-related expansion and maintenance of the infrastructure. The automotive industry is making its contribution by bringing to market ever more economical vehicles. Just in the last five years, Wissmann pointed out, the average fuel consumption in Germany had fallen by around 16 per cent. “Now more than 60 per cent of all newly registered passenger cars in Germany have a standard fuel consumption of less than 6 litres over 100 kilometres. The German manufacturers alone currently offer 600 models with CO2 emissions of up to 130 g on the German market, and 350 models under 120 g CO2,” the VDA president said.
He explained that experience showed that higher taxation of road traffic would not make a difference in improving the environment. “This will merely take financial resources away from motorists which will then not be available for buying a modern, low-emission car.” According to Wissmann, the passenger cars on German roads had now reached a record age of almost nine years: “If the vehicle fleet in Germany were just one year younger, 1,000 million litres of fuel, or 2.5 million tonnes of CO2, could be saved every year.”
Furthermore, Wissmann pointed out that many investigations were based on unrealistic assumptions that drove up the costs borne by motorists. The results of common studies varied considerably, and so there was no generally accepted yardstick in Europe.