Automotive industry faces difficult transition

Automotive industry faces difficult transition

Germany is still a car country – politicians and industry want to secure the future: a leading role in autonomous driving, more speed for a customer-friendly charging network for e-cars and better data exchange with other traffic carriers.

These are the core objectives of the "auto summit" with chancellor angela merkel (CDU) and representatives from politics and business on tuesday evening. The rough hook: the industry is in a deep crisis. Medium-sized suppliers in particular are hanging on to the burner. They are in danger of running out of money – and the strength to invest in the future – because of the sales slump in the corona pandemic. Jobs are at stake. An overview:


The government subsidies for modern gasoline and diesel vehicles, which were recently called for again, especially by the CSU, still do not exist. Anyone who had thought about possibly being able to make a grab on the limping market with state money could therefore be disappointed for the time being. Many in the industry emphasize that even new combustion engines have better CO2 values than the mass of cars on the road today. But federal and industry subsidies remain limited to electric and hybrid cars.


Instead, a different instrument is now being tested: above all, smaller and medium-sized suppliers, who are feeling the effects of the market slump particularly strongly, are to be supported with a possible transformation fund. The IG metall union, for example, had campaigned for this. Companies to be strengthened with equity capital – in order to be able to invest in e-mobility and digitization. Because otherwise companies are threatened with insolvency and the loss of jobs and thus skilled workers.

The model for a possible fund should be ready by november. In the automotive industry, it is emphasized that this should be a private-sector instrument, and that there should be no state involvement. But the state could hedge risks through guarantees. The only question is whether this help for companies on the verge of bankruptcy will come in time. The auto industry directly employs more than 800,000 people in germany.


In june, the federal government’s economic stimulus package also included an additional program totaling two billion euros to encourage investment in new technologies. It is now to be examined whether the program will be improved. SPD leader norbert walter-borjans criticized economics minister peter altmaier (CDU) for not yet having a clear concept of how the money should be used. "Altmaier must involve the manufacturers, focus above all on the suppliers and, where tax money is to be used, serve to change the track to the future," walter-borjans said on wednesday.

The german association of the automotive industry (VDA) is also calling for more speed. VDA president hildegard muller said there was still a great deal of buying restraint on the car markets. Open are, for example, demands for the ramp-up of electromobility or a program for the fleet replacement of trucks.

The auto industry is also looking to brussel with concern: the eu commission could soon announce concrete plans for stricter climate targets. Industry warns this could overwhelm companies in difficult transition.


Many trials on test fields have been underway for a long time – but the idea of drivers being able to be chauffeured by autonomous vehicles in normal traffic has so far been considered a pipe dream. Implementation is now to be accelerated significantly, and germany is even to take on an international pioneering role. Given the technical and legal complexity of the issue, the goal is ambitious: regular operation should be possible as early as 2022, and automated and autonomous cars should also be "tangible" in this country.

German manufacturers are gradually positioning themselves – after having followed tesla, google and chinese companies so far. VW, for example, will be investing billions in such systems in the coming years. In june, the group sealed a partnership with the U.S. Automaker ford. In the case of its subsidiary argo AI, which specializes in artificial intelligence, the two companies intend to share the development costs. VW boss herbert diess sees the proposal of the "auto summit" as a contribution to anchor the topic in germany. So far, testing is only taking place in the USA. "We will rethink this now, when the conditions in germany change."


A "data room mobilitat" is to be established, for which the auto industry wants to make data available. Target date is the world congress for intelligent traffic systems in hamburg in the fall of 2021. It could be an important step toward a common mobility platform for the various modes of transportation – besides cars, that means airplanes, buses and trains, cabs or e-scooters. In the future, there could be a common app to connect new and existing mobilitats offers in a user-friendly way.


Demand for electric vehicles in germany is picking up, partly due to higher government purchase subsidies. But it’s not just the high price that still puts many consumers off – it’s also the fear that there won’t be enough charging stations available. While progress is being made, the build-up is to be accelerated. The store should also become more customer-friendly with a unified payment method.