Merkel holds another ‘car summit‘ aimed at making German car industry future proof

After a series of meetings with high-profile car industry representatives in recent years to deal with the fallout of the so-called dieselgate scandal for the German car industry, Chancellor Angela Merkel has again invited the leaders of the country’s most important car companies to her chancellery to debate how the industry could cope with impending changes in the mobility sector. The keynote speaker will be Günther Schuh, who founded the e-car companies StreetScooter and e.GO, and is not considered a member of the country’s established carmaker elite, consisting of Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, Daniel Delhaes, Markus Fasse, Franz Hubik and Frank Specht write in the Handelsblatt. Schuh is likely to advocate a greater reliance on public transportation in inner cities and a reduction of the number of cars, “something that is unlikely to go down well” with the other carmakers’ CEOs, the article says. The summit that takes place late in the evening on 24 June will also be attended by representatives of the important car industry suppliers, workers’ council members and mobility researchers. According to Handelsblatt, the carmakers might make a joint call for carbon pricing in the mobility sector at the summit. 

In an interview with the Stuttgarter Nachrichten, economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier said the summit would allow the government and the carmakers to “speak about our mutual expectations and develop a joint plan for the future that is actually going to be implemented.” Altmaier said the primary aim was to preserve as many jobs as possible in Germany’s most important industry branch as electric cars are about to change the traditional business model based on combustion engines. New jobs could, for example, be created in battery production or with “mobility service providers,” Altmaier added.

 A profit warning issued by carmaker Daimler on the day of the summit illustrated the German car industry’s worries. Due to high costs associated with the diesel emissions fraud scandal, the company has had to reduce its profit expectations, leading to a five percent drop in Daimler’s share price, the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. Just a few days earlier, Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) ordered a fresh product recall of 60,000 Daimler cars for allegedly being equipped with a defeat device to make exhaust emissions appear lower, the newspaper writes.

Germany’s influential carmakers all have announced ambitious plans to increase the share of e-cars in their product portfolio over the next years. They have called on the government to support the shift through buyer’s premiums for e-cars, tax rebates and by building a dense network of charging stations. The government is under pressure to bring about changes in the transport sector, which has not significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. Moreover, car exhaust emissions are suspected to contribute substantially to excessive air pollution levels, triggering controversial driving bans for diesel cars in dozens of inner cities.