The industry is in a state of transition, in the midst of great challenges, but also with great opportunities knocking at its door – this was one conclusion of the “Mobility of the Future” event, where Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) and Oliver Blume, Chief Executive Officer of Porsche AG, met. The VDA had invited guests to its headquarters in Berlin for the ninth time. And the discussion between Blume and Scheuer was intense. The focus of the debate: When will the zero-emission future begin? And what is electric mobility really capable of?
Right at the beginning, Oliver made it clear to Blume that the automotive industry is going through major changes; the old routines and standards no longer apply. “If we are bold enough, the upcoming transformation will be a great opportunityfor us.” For Porsche, this means, among other things, that the company will no longer use diesel engines. A result of the recent diesel scandals? Not at all. The company is giving this technology up due to a “targeted strategic decision,” not out of “frustration” over the mistakes of the past. The goal is to sharpen the brand.
The Porsche boss sees his company faced with two major challenges: On the one hand, the automotive industry is going through a transformation that will change the entire industry in the next five to ten years more than anything has in the past 50 years. On the other hand, new competitors are pushing new business models onto the market.
Mobility services as a business model
“The central issue is how user behavior will change in the future,” said Blume. For example, increasing urbanization means that owning a car will be less important for an increasing number of people. What to do? In San Francisco, Porsche is currently testing a concept where car owners lend out their cars, Blume said. Providing mobility services is developing into an increasingly important business field next to car sales.
The main reason that innovative mobility solutions are not being talked about more is the ongoing discussion about diesel engines, according to Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer. In his talk, the CSU politician reminded the industry of its responsibilities. Scheuer spoke of the automotive business as “Germany’s leading industry,” contributing significantly to the prosperity of the country. However, the minister said that the mistakes of the past had made it difficult to “speak about the mobility of tomorrow as much as would be necessary.” Scheuer noted that the automobile manufacturers had a “huge amount of catching up to do” to win back lost confidence. This loss also had consequences for politicians in the Federal Government. The results of the elections in Hesse and Bavaria recently demonstrated this, where both the Union and the SPD had poor results.
Scheuer believes the industry has obligations
“Integrity, reliability, and dependability – that’s the essence of the “Made in Germany” brand. “And that’s what we have to go back to,” Scheuer said, appealing to the industry. “We need tailor-made products for everyone.” Only developing electric mobility would not be helpful, Scheuer said. However, he acknowledged that coordination of the various government support measures in the past was not always ideal.
Porsche boss Blume gave some insight into what consequences a well-developed electric mobility infrastructure can have, using Norway as an illustration. For example, 2,500 pre-orders of the battery-powered Taycan have come from Norway. “This is a country where we normally sell maybe 600 vehicles per year,” Blume said.
Porsche: The future belongs to electric mobility
“Electric mobility is the technology of the future for us at Porsche,” Blume said. With a total of around six billion euros for research, development, and production in the next few years, the company is investing heavily in electric mobility. This includes the staff waiving a portion of their pay increases – “to my knowledge, a unique step in the industry,” Blume continued. At Porsche, changing to electric drives will not bring job losses. On the contrary, Porsche is hiring 1,500 employees for the production of the Taycan.
Establishing innovative technologies in Germany would also be in Minister Scheuer’s interest. After all, across the globe, every third patent in the area of electric mobility comes from Germany, Scheuer stated.
In other words, the challenges are great, but so are the opportunities.