The big lane change?

The reactions to the results of the auto summit are mixed. SPD boss Walter-Borjans criticizes the economics minister – IG Metall and car manufacturers are quite satisfied.

New VW Bulli T6 cars stand next to each other at the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles plant.

SPD boss Norbert Walter-Borjans has criticized Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier (CDU) for not having a concept for structural change in the auto industry. “Altmaier must involve the manufacturers, be focused primarily on the suppliers and, wherever tax money is to be used, serve to change lanes into the future,” said Walter-Borjans after the “car summit” of the German press agency.

So far, however, the Minister of Economic Affairs has not had a recognizable concept of how the 2 billion euros should be used for innovative investments in the automotive industry. Price discounts on combustion engines financed by taxpayers did not serve to make the industry fit for the future, emphasized Walter-Borjans on Wednesday.

Concern for the lead industry

On Tuesday evening, the representatives of the industry had an appointment with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and several federal ministers for a video conference, for the virtual car summit. It should actually be about artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and the use of mobility data. At the top-level discussion, politics and business had agreed to examine whether and, if so, how a “market-based concept” to strengthen equity capital could be developed by supplier companies in particular. Suppliers in particular have come under pressure in the Corona crisis. This project is going “much more targeted towards transformation,” said Walter-Borjans.

Among other things, the plan was formulated that the Federal Republic should take a “leading role in autonomous driving” in the coming years – a separate law is being prepared. But even before the phone call, everything was overshadowed by the new rescue debate. In the federal government, concerns about Germany’s leading industry, about manufacturers and suppliers who still employ a good 830,000 people, currently predominate. There were hardly any concrete resolutions at the deliberations on Tuesday evening, test orders were formulated and a number of questions were postponed to the next talks in November.

Ecological and social transformation

While Walter-Borjan’s approaches do not go far enough, the IG Metall trade union is of the opinion that the auto summit sends out a “good signal”. The first chairman Jörg Hofmann said on Wednesday: “The federal government has noticed the difficult situation in the supplier industry and tried to find solutions. Our proposal to set up transformation funds with which the equity capital of small and medium-sized suppliers can be strengthened is now being processed. “

This would be an essential contribution to a successful transformation, because it would enable companies to invest in innovations and thus secure jobs for the future, says Hofmann.

The union’s proposal to set up regional “transformation clusters” is also being worked on. “The aim is to pursue an active regional structural policy in regions that today are heavily dependent on the combustion engine due to a large number of suppliers. This, too, could make a significant contribution to transforming Germany’s leading industry ecologically and socially. “

There was also encouragement from the automobile companies: VW Group boss Herbert Diess considers the resolutions of the “Auto Summit” to be an important contribution to putting Germany in a better position when it comes to future technologies. The discussed goals for autonomous driving are a necessary step, emphasized the manager on Wednesday. “It is important that we do not lose touch with the relatively open regulation in the USA and China.”