Turning point for the car industry

Turning point for the car industry


The issue of climate change is everywhere at the IAA.
The diesel scandal and the ongoing debate
about the environmental impact
of motor vehicles means that,
although conventional cars are also being exhibited,
the issue of climate change is dominant.
Demonstrations are due to be held here, too.
The auto industry will not only have
reasons to be cheerful,
it will also find itself under the microscope
facing critical questioning.
There are three major challenges at the moment.
The first is cyclical in nature.
Sales of passenger cars are currently
declining worldwide in the major auto markets.
In the EU and the US they were down 2-3%
in the first half of 2019,
while in China they slumped by no less than 13%.
And then there are two technological megatrends:
The first is the whole topic of autonomous
and connected driving –
essentially the digital car.
Second is the development of new
propulsion technologies.
The automotive industry has to invest
huge amounts in these areas
although the markets are still relatively small.
The e-mobility share of all car sales
is currently 2.5%.
In the EU it was precisely 2.4%
in the first half of this year.
There are a number of countries
where the share is much higher.
In Norway, thanks to huge subsidies,
the figure is over 50%.
The many positive effects that people
expect e-mobility
to have on the climate are,
in my opinion, illusory.
Electric vehicles have to clock up
relatively high mileages
in order to do better than vehicles
with combustion engines
and on top of that there are problems
with extracting the raw materials.
This means that ultimately there are likely
to be limited positive effects.
On balance, individual mobility –
whatever propulsion technology is used –
is unlikely to be the solution to
achieving the climate goals
that policymakers have set themselves.
That will depend heavily on government regulation.
Today cars make up some 80% of traffic volume.
In Germany there are currently 6 million more cars
on the roads than 10 years ago.
That doesn’t seem like car fatigue to me.
In my opinion the car will still be a key mode
of passenger transport in 10 or 20 years.
Unless the government makes car ownership
much more costly,
or imposes other restrictive measures.
Of course the car of the future will do less
harm to the climate,
it will be more connected
and it will communicate with other vehicles.
What’s also true is that we will need more
local public transport
and that these services will have to be more
efficient and more comfortable.
That will be a key element of an efficient
transport sector in the future.

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