German manufacturers have shown at the IAA in Munich that they have always been masters in the automobile industry. It is also more than empty promises that they want to make their vehicles more sustainable in the future. Yet you must ask yourself if this is enough. Because saying goodbye to the combustion engine is no longer the biggest obstacle.
If you ask the employees of the German automakers at this show, the sound is everywhere the same: you finally have a clear goal in mind, you know where it’s going: all about the electric. But they’re also proud of the fact that those who have dealt with sustainability across a vehicle’s entire lifecycle for years are now becoming visible. Finally, the focus is on the developer, who was already tinkering with electric car platforms when manufacturers were still stubbornly trying in public to save on diesel. Or the technician who participates in “Fridays for Future” and at the same time develops sustainable interiors for a major German car manufacturer.
This change was also clearly visible at the show, very different from two years ago in Frankfurt. There were almost exclusively battery-powered vehicles only on the exhibition space, but not only: it wasn’t just crazy design studies that don’t do anything to save the climate because they aren’t made for the conduct. But cars that visitors were able to test on site and which can also be purchased. Of course, manufacturers must accept the criticism that the choice of electric cars is still poor, especially when it comes to small to mid-range cars. On the other hand, it’s just as cheap to complain about electric SUVs, but fail to recognize that customers have preferred the VW Tiguan over the Polo for years.
There must be fewer cars that park less often and are used at full capacity
There is therefore progress in electromobility. German automakers have simply let down some big-bet competitors. Two years ago at the IAA in Frankfurt, for example, there was Byton with a mega-hip electric car, the cockpit of which consisted of a giant screen. It was Chinese competition that Daimler, BMW, Audi and Co. must have feared, it was said at the time. Chic, digital and above all not as slow as the German manufacturers. And now? Has Byton ever gone bankrupt in Germany. It is quite possible that none of these cars will ever hit the market. At this year’s IAA, at least in terms of big electric cars, there was nothing to fear in Munich, Stuttgart or Ingolstadt.
While everyone’s biggest old-car competitor wasn’t available for a direct comparison this time around either: Tesla still didn’t see the need to show up at the IAA. The American automaker presented its new model in Germany just two weeks ago. A car show like this would of course have provided a good opportunity to show hundreds of thousands of visitors what cars Tesla will be building in Brandenburg soon.
But even if the best electric cars in the world in the future came from German manufacturers, that does not mean that all problems will be solved. Because the upheaval in the world of mobility will be much deeper: it is enough to replace a heat engine by an electric propulsion, that is not all. There should be fewer cars that park less often and are ideally used at full capacity. How can an automaker continue to make money despite this necessary change? What could be seen and heard at the IAA does not give hope that German companies will have the best answer.
Daimler and BMW want for the moment to fall back on their core business, namely car manufacturing. Only VW is apparently seriously considering how operating robotic taxis could turn into a good deal. It is telling that Mobileye, Nio and Sixt want cars to drive through Munich without a driver as early as next year, but neither a German automaker nor a German supplier is involved in the surprisingly ambitious project.