In the automotive industry, no stone is left unturned; after a long period of hesitation, companies have fully committed themselves to electromobility and digitization. The president of the VDA industry association, Hildegard Müller, explains in an interview why she would like more support from politicians and why she would like to …
In the automotive industry, no stone is left unturned; after a long period of hesitation, companies have fully committed themselves to electromobility and digitization. The president of the VDA industry association, Hildegard Müller, explains in an interview why she would like more support from politics and why she is looking to talk to the climate movement. Thorsten Knuf and Dorothee Torebko spoke to her.
The industry association BDI has just accused the parties of preoccupying themselves too much with trivialities during the election campaign. Do you share the criticism?
Yes. Our country is facing great challenges. Take our industry: It’s not just about building climate-friendly electric cars. A comprehensive charging infrastructure must now also be created and the transformation of suppliers and employees must also succeed. Internationally there is increasing tension, politicians should actually think more about trade agreements again. We need more commitment to digitization and to improve our international competitiveness. I am in favor of a society discussing these important issues during the election campaign and not about résumés, copied sentences in books and the like.
You have gained a lot of experience in politics and government yourself. Why is the election campaign splashing along?
Each election campaign has its own themes and its own dynamics. The current one has not yet reached the important questions. The fact that this election campaign takes place in the middle of the holiday season and that the flood disaster dominated the news for a long time is likely to play a role. But society is concerned with more than is currently in the foreground. Germany must become a climate-neutral industrialized country in which the economy continues to be the engine of prosperity and jobs. Politicians can trust people to have these debates. A feel-good election campaign is bad for the country.
The Greens could be involved in the next federal government. Are you afraid of a green transport minister?
No. Everyone who is Minister of Transport has to face the same transformation task and the comprehensive restructuring of mobility in the direction of climate neutrality. As the automotive industry, we are already European champions in e-mobility, and we will probably even be world champions next year. Now the infrastructure has to be created so that all the new e-cars can be charged anywhere and with 100 percent green electricity.
Are the Germans ready for the transformation, the fundamental restructuring of industry and society?
My impression is that there is a high level of problem awareness. Climate neutrality is not about whether, but only about how. Germany has so far been very successful as an industrialized country. There is no guarantee that this will continue because a lot is going to change. The implementation of the Paris climate goals will have consequences for almost every area of life and will cost a lot of money. That doesn’t seem to have reached everyone yet. Last but not least, it is about the social cohesion of our society in this great change.
Daimler and VW are certain that the future of the car is electric. The VDA insists on technology openness. Why?
When it comes to cars, the trend is clearly towards electromobility. If there is enough green electricity, electromobility is perfect for climate protection. It looks different with commercial vehicles, ships or airplanes. Even if one day the electric drive will have clearly established itself in new cars, there will still be combustion engines. We currently have 1.5 billion vehicles worldwide – these too must contribute to reducing CO2. That’s why we have to work on hydrogen or e-fuels.
The car companies are aligning their plans for the transformation to the year 2030. The EU Commission proposes a CO2 fleet limit value of zero for 2035. Could the industry live with a legal exit date for the combustion engine?
Such a date is not helpful. This is the opposite of being technology-neutral. And it affects consumer choice. Because the success of e-mobility does not only depend on the car manufacturers. Customers will only buy e-cars on a large scale if they feel that they can charge their vehicle anytime, anywhere. There is a problem at the moment, and that needs to be addressed.
Tesla plans to open its plant in Grünheide near Berlin this year. Do the German manufacturers build cars as good as Elon Musk?
Naturally. The best cars in the world are built in Germany. If Tesla is involved here, that is a compliment for us. And also an incentive to stay ahead. Incidentally, German companies will be investing more than 150 billion euros in development and digitization in the coming years. Exactly as much as the federal government spends on education, research and space programs during this period.
Since the beginning of 2020 The manager from the Münsterland is President of the Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). The industry, with around 800,000 employees, is the most important branch of the economy in Germany. Before moving to the VDA, the 54-year-old worked in the energy industry, among other things. From 2002 to 2008 she sat for the CDU in the Bundestag and was at times Minister of State in the Chancellery. Müller is to reposition the association in the light of the upheaval in the automotive industry. (knuf / fp)