Brave new car world: Whirring e-mobiles can travel hundreds of kilometers on green electricity, CO2-neutral shared cabs are pushing back individual traffic in the city, networked cars warn each other of traffic jams and accident risks via 5G.
This scenario may still sound too good to be true. But the structural shift in Germany's key industry toward e-models, digitization and automated driving is in full swing – and it's not all winners and supporters. Audi has also just announced job cuts. To many more employees at manufacturers. Suppliers are likely to face troubled times.
1. E-mobility – finally out of the niche?
No effective climate protection without significantly fewer internal combustion engines and significantly more electric cars – hardly anyone doubts this anymore, at least if the electricity comes from renewable sources. Recently, new registrations of pure e-vehicles in Germany also increased noticeably. However, their market share remains small for the time being; so far, they are too expensive and impractical for many consumers. To make the e-car suitable for the masses, the government decided on higher and longer purchase bonuses. The "environmental bonus" will be offered until the end of 2025, with the industry paying half of it.
Peter Fuß, an automotive expert at consulting firm EY, believes this support is crucial: "We are seeing a strong, stable upward trend in e-cars. Numerous models, also in lower price regions, will make electromobility attractive for new buyer groups."But lower acquisition costs are not everything. The often still short range also plays a role. Volkswagen, for example, is attempting to make a breakthrough with the ID.3 to counteract. The all-electric model is relatively inexpensive. Drives a few hundred kilometers on a full battery.
Problem number three: the thin charging network. In the next two years, 50.000 new public charging points are being created. Manufacturers will have to cut 15.000 at their sites – BMW, for example, plans to install more than 4100 units, and other suppliers have similar plans. In order for e-cars to become truly compatible with everyday life and to be able to be charged in parking garages, underground garages and at the workplace, many changes in building and tenancy law are necessary. Katherina Reiche from the Association of Municipal Enterprises emphasizes: "Many charging points are in planning or under construction, but we need more speed."
2. Job fears and new starts – downsides of the upheaval
Trade unions and works councils are worried about a too-rapid switch to e-mobility. Electric drives consist of only a fraction of the components that make up combustion engines – less, but highly specialized work is involved. An analysis by the Center of Automotive Research (CAR) at the University of Duisburg-Essen came to the conclusion that almost 234,000 jobs could be lost at manufacturers and suppliers in Germany by 2030. At the same time, only 109.000 jobs in development. Add production of e-cars. 000 jobs in development. Production of e-cars added.
To take employees from the old world to the new, many companies are putting on skills programs. At the same time, thousands of jobs in traditional combustion engine production will be cut. Audi is cutting 9500 jobs in Germany by 2025; in return, only 2000 jobs are to be created in areas such as e-mobility and digitization. There are to be no compulsory redundancies. At Daimler, an austerity program will cost thousands of jobs worldwide over the next three years. At least 10 jobs will be cut.000 jobs, the figure is in the low five digits, it was said. Above all, positions that become vacant will not be filled, there will be severance payments – but redundancies for operational reasons are ruled out in Germany until the end of 2029.
Bosch also cuts many jobs. Employees at Continental are protesting against the possible end for colleagues who cannot or do not want to take part in the change from hydraulics to electronics. IG Metall and IG BCE are alarmed. Restructuring at Conti could last until 2023 15.000 jobs, 5000 of them in Germany. Layoffs are not ruled out as a "very last resort".
There are increasing calls for federal policymakers to extend short-time working benefits for ailing companies in this situation. The IG BCE trade union is putting pressure on German Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU), who has not presented a coherent concept. 3. The Germans. Tesla: hunter or hunted? The Germans. Tesla: Hunter or hunted?All in all, manufacturers seem to have recognized the urgency of the transformation if they do not want to be held jointly responsible for the consequences of climate change as "car dinos. VW is investing around 33 billion euros in e-mobility by 2024. The company is planning its own battery cell plant, while the competition continues to buy – BMW, for example, from the Chinese CATL Group. The Bavarians – once pioneers in small electric cars with the i3 – are still keeping the decision open for a dominant form of propulsion. BMW aims to have 25 e-models in its lineup by 2023, more than half of them fully electric. Daimler is focusing on the EQ electric range, especially with the SUV EQC and the minibus EQV.
Meanwhile, arch-rival Tesla is setting up shop on the outskirts of Berlin: In Grünheide, Brandenburg, founder Elon Musk wants to build a "Gigafactory" with up to 7000 jobs. The Model Y compact SUV, batteries and powertrains are expected to be produced from the end of 2021. An engineering and design center is being built in Berlin itself. Does this threaten jobs at the German top dogs?? The bosses are trying to interpret the declaration of war from the U.S. As an expression of sporting ambition: The innovation push benefits everyone. Until now, Tesla has had a hard time producing e-cars in large numbers.
4. Networking: "Made in Germany" against US tech giants
In this megatrend, too, the Americans are ahead of the Germans in some respects. Digitization means further automation of production in factories – but especially increasing networking of functions in the car itself. This will become a smartphone on wheels. The new VW Golf, for example, is constantly online, all instruments are digital, there is an infotainment display and projections in the driver's field of vision.
Manufacturers will hardly be able to cope with all this on their own. VW relies on cloud services. Locked a partnership with Microsoft. The idea is to control entire fleets in the future – including customer service, inspections and interfaces to services such as charging and billing software for electric cars. It's all about a comprehensive online "ecosystem". Other suppliers are also investing heavily here.
The cars of the future will also communicate with each other ("car-to-car") and with the infrastructure ("car-to-x") – this should optimize traffic flow. Suppliers like Continental are doing well here, but competition from the U.S. And China is not asleep. Largely still open is what data protection standards will apply to the expected huge amounts of information.
5. Autonomous driving: "robo-car" or incapacitation? The development of highly automated vehicles is closely linked to general networking -. One day driving completely autonomously – cars together. However, industry experts say the Germans are lagging far behind U.S. Companies such as Google's sister company Waymo, which is also testing robotaxi services. This leads to alliances among rivals that would have been rather unrealistic in the past: Daimler and BMW are cooperating on the road to the "robo-car," as are Volkswagen and Ford, which are pouring billions into the self-driving car company Argo AI.
Daimler CEO Ola Källenius said: "Instead of individual stand-alone solutions, we are concerned with a reliable overall system."But here, too, the fundamental question arises: Do a sufficient number of customers want such systems?? Do they want to end up handing over complete control to a robot? And: Does the robot really drive more safely? Debates among auto insurers and ethicists analyzing the dilemma of decisions in accidents have just begun.
6. New services – away from just building cars.
For many young people, the car has had its day as a status symbol. This is one of the reasons why manufacturers are looking to business models that allow them to make money from the sharing economy. In cities, more customers want to rent vehicles rather than buy them.
Car sharing was one of the first attempts in this direction – with mixed results so far. Daimler and BMW found many users in the centers with their now merged Car 2 Go and Drive Now offerings – in the countryside, car sharing ekes out a niche existence. VW discontinued its initial version Quicar in Hanover and is trying to move more decisively into car sharing with electric cars in Berlin with its WeShare approach. More cities to follow.
Other services are also expected to transform carmakers into mobility corporations. In ridesharing or ridepooling, several customers use the same vehicle. Public transport companies are also participating – for example, in the Berlkönig of the Berlin public transport company (BVG) or the Clevershuttle of Deutsche Bahn. Volkswagen's Moia shared cab service is on the road in Hamburg and Hanover.
7. And above all this, the gloomy economy.
The changes are hitting companies at a time when, on top of everything else, the global economy is not doing so well. Growth is faltering in many countries, which is putting pressure on sales – a problem for the export-oriented industry. At the end of October, the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) found that a number of companies were anticipating a deep crisis. To make matters worse, the ongoing tariff dispute with the U.S. Is overshadowing all international trade.