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Wissmann: German automotive industry aims for accident-free traffic

Hannover/Berlin, 20 March 2014

VDA’s 16th Technical Congress in Hannover

“The German automotive industry is working on a completely new definition of safety in road traffic. The future lies in connecting vehicles with one another, with the infrastructure and with the Internet. Cars will communicate with one another using either mobile telephony or wireless networks. We will be warned in real time of accidents, will be able to detour around traffic congestion and reduce journey times, and this will save environmental resources. We are aiming for accident-free road traffic,” explained Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), as the VDA’s 16th Technical Congress got underway on the Hannover trade fair grounds. “Our companies are developing the safest and also the most efficient vehicles. This success is built upon our manufacturers’ and suppliers’ never ending desire to innovate,” Wissmann said.

Attracting over 500 participants, the VDA’s Technical Congress is the automotive industry’s largest and most important technology symposium anywhere in Europe. High-level representatives from automotive manufacturers, suppliers, academia and politics are meeting on 20 and 21 March 2014 to discuss “Vehicle safety and electronics” and “Environment, energy and electric mobility.”

Around the world, the German automotive industry invests more than 27 billion euro every year in its innovations, according to Wissmann. And 17.4 billion euro of this is spent in Germany alone. The VDA president stressed, “Since 2009 the German automotive industry has increased its R&D expenditure each year just within Germany by around one billion euro. ‘It therefore accounts for about one third of all industrial research investment in our country. These investments pay off – the automotive industry is the most innovative sector. This is demonstrated especially well in the field of raising efficiency,” Wissmann explained.

Last year alone, the VDA president added, average CO2 output from newly registered passenger cars from German group brands fell by 3.8 per cent to 136 grams. “Today our manufacturers have 878 models on offer on the German market which emit a maximum of 130 g CO2 per kilometre. And 528 of these models are in fact below 120 g CO2. These improvements in efficiency make us pioneers in action on climate. We have achieved a great deal in CO2 reduction – but obviously we cannot continue this success indefinitely. Potentials for making savings still exist, which this Technical Congress will showcase. However, in the not too distant future we will come up against the limits of what is technically feasible. We must therefore make it clear to European policy-makers that an unending series of reduction targets will jeopardise the competitiveness of our industry,” Wissmann said.

We may assume, Wissmann stated, that registrations of electric vehicles in Germany could amount to tens of thousands in 2014. “By the end this year, German manufacturers will have 16 series models with electric drive on the market. Now automobiles with this propulsion system have to catch on, especially as company cars. Electric vehicles must become more attractive. For this reason, the National Platform for Electric Mobility has proposed that firms procuring electric vehicles as company cars should be allowed to apply a special form of depreciation. Once these corporate vehicles are on the roads, private demand will also rise rapidly,” Wissmann declared.

Germany was the only major traditional automotive country, he added, which had managed to increase its home vehicle production during the last ten years – to 5.4 million passenger cars in 2013 – while over the same period its foreign production has grown markedly. The VDA president called on European politicians to protect Europe as an industrial location. “Germany generates around 30 per cent of the gross industrial value-added in the EU – more than the UK, France and Spain taken together. In all major Western European economies except Germany, the share of gross industrial value-added fell in the period from 2002 to 2012. Energy costs, on the other hand, have increased by 21 per cent within only four years. It is high time to take action protecting Europe’s industry so that it can guarantee prosperity, growth and jobs,” Wissmann said.

In his welcoming address Olaf Lies, Lower Saxony’s Minister for Economics, Labour and Transport, emphasised the importance of the automotive industry for Lower Saxony: “With their great success in exports, the automotive manufacturers and suppliers are the engine driving Lower Saxony’s economy. The automotive industry is currently facing sea-changes: altered consumer behaviour, the scarcity of fossil fuels and continuing progress in modern, connected communication present huge challenges for the industry. However, we would like to approach these changes as opportunities and continue deepening the dialog with industry. This applies most of all to the forward-looking fields of electric mobility, lightweight construction and modern information and communication technologies. I therefore regard the Technical Congress as an outstanding platform for business and academia to present research results, share experiences, and forge contacts. The programme here includes the topics that move us: electric mobility, connected driving, and reducing CO2 output,” Lies stated.

The keynote speech delivered by Prof. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management at Volkswagen AG, focused on the fusion of automobiles with the electronic world: “Digitalisation will have a revolutionary impact on automobiles and our entire sector. People expect their cars to have the same connectivity as their smartphone, and that these two worlds fuse with one another. As an automotive location Germany must assume a leading role in this future technology, too. The perfect car is efficient, emotional and fully connected.”

Dr Elmar Degenhart, Chairman of the Executive Board at Continental AG, gave a lecture concentrating on safety. “Road accidents should be in the museum. That is no longer a utopian idea because the cars of the future will be better able to avoid accidents, being protected by vehicle data and information from other road users,” Degenhart said.

In his keynote speech entitled “Effects of transatlantic free trade on vehicle safety” Bernhard Mattes, Chairman of the board of Ford-Werke GmbH, spoke about the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the USA and the EU. “The TTIP offers a unique opportunity to co-operate on the further development of high standards, one key step on the way to a free, international economic order. For the automotive industry this would primarily drive the Asian markets, and the abolition of the non-tariff trade barriers would release a huge potential for additional growth in exports to the USA and significant commerce with other states as well.”

The topics of “Environment, energy and electric mobility” and “Vehicle safety and electronics” form the two main themes running through the VDA’s 16th Technical Congress. Alongside Matthias Wissmann, Olaf Lies, Prof.  Martin Winterkorn, Dr Elmar Degenhart and Bernhard Mattes, the speakers include Helmut Matschi, Member of the Executive Board at Continental AG, Karl Stracke, President Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik und Engineering, Magna Steyr AG & Co. KG, Prof. Lutz Eckstein, Head of the Institute of Automotive Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, Dr Eckhard Scholz, CEO Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Alessandro Bernardini, PD&E – Innovation Truck & Bus, Alternative Traction & Electrification Director, IVECO S.p.A., Prof. Martin Wietschel, Coordinator of Business Unit Energy Economy at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Arne Schönbohm, President of the Cyber Security Council Germany, and Eckard Eberle, CEO Industrial Automation Systems, Siemens AG.

The conference programme can be downloaded from the Internet, at: http://www.vda.de/en/veranstaltungen/kongresse/technik/tk_2014/index.html.

The congress is free of charge for journalists.

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