When it comes to the merger between the auto industry and politics, at least middle-aged and older people in this country think of Gerhard Schröder: How many pictures are there of the former chancellor and defender of VW currywurst in good spirits with car bosses demonstrating. His policy was consistent: Schröder, it is said, was the chancellor of the automobile.
That this is a transfiguration was once again shown this week: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is providing industry with a billion – to help transform industry. You have to say another billion. It is a kind of last farewell gift after a chancellery rich in gifts.
It was the first Merkel government to provide five billion euros to motorists in the country in the year of crisis 2009. The scrapping bonus has mainly helped mass manufacturers to get rid of their cars better. On the other hand, the providers of alternative means of transport have mostly gone empty-handed in 16 “Merkel years”. The shocking bit that the government – especially the transport ministry – sought to talk to them about is well documented.
Instead, they fought against stricter emission regulations, which would have cost manufacturers and customers dearly: the barriers to CO₂, i.e. ultimately the allowable fuel consumption, should not be too harsh, as the Germans have long successfully advanced in Brussels – and even in the United States. “Your standards are too high,” Merkel once complained in California.
And then the diesel scandal: German authorities also had clear indications before the discovery – but the government and the subordinate administration did not react. Merkel, meanwhile, was “angry” that someone was cheating. But your government then continued to intervene in Brussels because of too rapid a switch to e-mobility and because of supposedly too severe emission regulations, which the big heavy cars of Audi, BMW and Mercedes could hardly comply. The industry has also been able to avoid a severe renovation requirement.
It is this record which – sorry Gerhard Schröder – makes Angela Merkel a true automotive chancellor.
Now this is not only worthy of criticism, just as not all donations should be condemned at all levels. The 800,000 people employed in this industry will see it differently. Sales bonuses are certainly useful for their employment, just like the current billion, which aims to facilitate the entry of small and medium-sized suppliers, particularly in the world of electronics. And don’t forget: other countries also support their domestic auto industry.
But with too much affection for the auto industry, the Chancellor did not help either the company or the country in the medium term. Valuable years have been lost in the battle to retreat for the combustion engine. Lots of time to push the industry towards a faster turnaround. It is time for German manufacturers to catch up with their competitors like Tesla. There is now more targeted funding for electric cars. But a lot of things, like the charging station infrastructure, could have been brought forward much earlier. When it comes to the concepts of alternative mobility, it doesn’t look any different.
Faced with digitalization and climate change, the mobility of tomorrow will no longer be one in which only one’s own car counts – offers are changing, and the rules are changing too. It also means that the days of automatic chancelleries are over. Tomorrow we need a mobility chancellor.