Ever stricter emission limits, new competitors, diesel gates, e-mobility, Brexit and trade wars and now corona, the consequences for Germany as an automotive location can no longer be stopped.
If you add up the announcements by suppliers and OEMs, about 200,000 of the 800,000 jobs in the automotive industry will disappear in the next one and a half years.
I do not see the problem in the change, but in the rapid speed. After all, 99% of the added value is currently still generated by cars with combustion engines. But e-vehicles are not making money yet.
The automotive industry today
Let us face the facts (by a few?) that the politically desired change brings with it:
Since 2017 at the latest, the automotive industry has been experiencing declining margins despite rising sales, which will be negative for the first time in Q2 2020 due to corona.
There will be a cruel selection of suppliers because certain skills will no longer be required. So where will the orders come from?
The development of the various drive concepts is running in parallel at the OEMs, who have increased their war chests to a total of 250 billion (also at the expense of the suppliers). The margins of the supplier industry were already lower in the past, and many will run out of steam in the near future due to insufficient equity.
Also, not all manufacturers will survive. More cooperation will be required, because the costs of growth and transformation are immense and far exceed existing reserves.
Environmental protection through electric vehicles?
The guidelines from Brussels are utopian. German policymakers could do much more to protect the automotive industry.
Not a single electric vehicle is good for the environment today. The climate is not interested in where the emissions occur.
In terms of environmental protection, e-vehicles are currently at best no better than the internal combustion engine.
Even hybrid vehicles, which in my opinion make perfect sense, are mainly driven as combustion engines. Here, comfort and premiums count more than environmental protection.
Energy supply, but from where?
On infrastructure: Baden-Württemberg has problems with energy supply. After the last nuclear power plants are shut down at the end of 2022, 50% of the electricity will have to be imported because the state’s own capacities are too small.
Where will this electricity come from? From French or Czech nuclear power plants?
Which brings us to Tesla. I am not a friend of Tesla, because in my opinion, the vehicles from processing are a disaster.
But: the competition from Tesla is there, and the lead in software must be taken seriously.
And above all: the appreciation by the investors is very high. I would like to see something like this for our automotive industry, which was once the engine of growth for our prosperity.
As a country, we must move away from “what do we not want” to “what do we want”.
Or to put it another way: We have to get out of the prohibition mode.
It is the task of politics, not of technical implementation, to set the framework conditions. That is the task of business.
The task of politics would also be to take care of the infrastructure.
What can we do better or differently? – My theses
The decision against the combustion engine is wrong in my eyes. Wrong decisions can and must be corrected. We cannot just back a horse (electromobility), we have to incorporate environmental protection, technology, science and business equally. The result should be open.
E-fuels or synthetic fuels in conjunction with hybrid vehicles have the great advantage that no new infrastructure is needed. Fuel cells as drive systems in commercial vehicles or in medium and luxury class cars can also be refuelled with the existing infrastructure with only minor adaptations.
Pure electric vehicles (BEVs) are niche solutions for large cities, hybrid vehicles can be electrically powered in conurbations without the fear of breaking down.
The existing technology should be maintained and improved. We are the world leader in this field and it serves environmental protection far more than certain wishful thinking that ends in chaos.
My expectations of politicians are to see more than just limit values. Nothing is without alternatives.
Already Pareto taught us that with 20 percent of the effort (in the right place) you can achieve 80 percent of the result.
Yours Stefan Merkle