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Interview with VDA President Bernhard Mattes

Interview with VDA President Bernhard Mattes
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S a door in the Berlin office is almost always open to employees. No big appointments in the anteroom. Bernhard Mattes brings a breath of fresh air to the antiquated, conservative lobby group of the automotive industry. He does not allow interlocutors to be “summoned”, but prefers to travel himself and look around how his member companies are changing - starting with the car manufacturers and the suppliers to the commercial vehicle industry. His job is to polish up the car industry's tarnished image. In his private life, Mattes drives a Ford Mustang GT convertible (V8, 5 liter displacement, gray metallic). His VDA company car changes frequently and is always a luxury sedan from German manufacturers, currently a Mercedes S-Class with plug-in hybrid.

Through the deliberate manipulation of some Companies in the German auto industry have completely lost their trust in the German auto industry. How do you see that?

Mattes: We have to differentiate. From a global perspective, the German automotive industry continues to enjoy a good reputation, as our share of over 70 percent in the world premium market shows. In Germany in particular, it is about a loss of trust. It hurts. In the past, German engineering was trusted without reservation. That also included the car “made in Germany”. A lot has been lost in the past two and a half years. We can only restore trust by keeping what has been agreed in the future. That has to be worked hard and takes time. But that is our core task.

Arturo Rivas
VDA President Bernhard Mattes answered critical questions from the auto motor und sport editorial team.
Has changed the tone due to the scandalschanged or even tightened within the auto industry or in relation to politics?

Mattes: No, the discussions with politicians are very intensive and very factual. But of course I also feel the loss of trust in my conversations with the politically responsible.

But how can consumer trust arise when new models are discovered that are manipulated almost daily are managers of this model German industry arrested or house searches are carried out?

Mattes: Investigations by the relevant authorities are part of a constitutional state. But this also means that there should be no prejudice during an ongoing trial. We have to earn trust again, that's what we're working on. And through the things we do. This includes unreserved and complete clarification as well as the full implementation of our agreements.

What are you doing to prevent the impending driving bans in Germany?

Mattes: The German manufacturers are implementing what we decided together with politicians at the Diesel Summit in August 2017. This includes the software updates for existing diesel cars, we are well on the way. The companies have submitted further applications for the KBA to approve. I assume that the majority of the vehicles will have received a software update by the end of the year, the rest we will work through in the coming year. Second, the contracts for the “Sustainable Mobility for the City” fund have been signed, and the first tranches of the 250 million euros will flow. The third point is the switchover bonus, the deadline of which has been extended by some automobile manufacturers.

But will that alone be enough to avert the driving bans?

Mattes: In addition, we work closely and specifically with cities whose measuring points still have high NOx values. In doing so, we go through many topics with those responsible: For example, we check together how the flow of traffic can be improved or how traffic lights can be optimized. When the traffic flows, the air quality in cities improves. In the case of traffic jams or stop-and-go, it's the other way round.

How well do the manufacturers' switchover bonuses work?

Mattes: Last year alone, the number of modern Euro 6 diesel cars in the fleet increased by 42 percent - from 2.7 to 3.8 million. So every year around a million clean and economical Euro 6 diesels hit the streets. The number of older diesels is falling continuously. The switch premiums have accelerated the renewal of the portfolio. Soon we will only have a few cities where the annual NOx limit values ​​are exceeded.

When willIn your opinion, the first driving bans are coming?

Mattes: Politicians have the clear goal of avoiding driving bans. There are better tools to meet EU air quality targets. If there are occasional driving bans in cities, the first question that arises is whether they apply to the route or to the area. Then the motorists could evade and would not be affected. Basically, we are currently mainly talking about five real “hotspots” in large cities that we still have to work on intensively. These are Hamburg, Kiel, Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart. In all likelihood, the annual mean value there will be over 50 micrograms of NO2 per cubic meter of air in 2018 as well. The insecurity of the people can be attributed to the fact that there was talk for months about allegedly imminent area-wide driving bans or the introduction of badges, incidentally mainly by opponents of individual mobility. We need to objectify the debate. That is why we are working very specifically with the cities and looking into what we can do together.

Arturo Rivas
VDA President Bernhard Mattes gladly accepted the invitation from auto motor und sport editor-in-chief Ralph Alex.
Shouldn't the auto industry have a solution in the form of badges or something similar?

Mattes: Badges always result in blanket bans. We don't want that, politicians don't want that, and neither do the citizens. Rather, it is about working together on the influencing factors for the hotspots mentioned. We know which ones there are and that, by the way, some are not related to road traffic. I am meeting - just one example - with the mayor of Cologne and there I will also ask what the city is doing with nitrogen oxide emissions from navigation on the Rhine. This is 44 percent responsible for the nitrogen dioxide in Cologne. How can that be improved? There are opportunities for optimization for all modes of transport, and there are also measures taken by the federal government.

We are now writing about the auto industry...

Mattes: But we mustn't lose sight of the goal. The goal is clean air, not the introduction of driving bans. I am convinced that we can achieve both: rapid improvement in air quality - and freedom of individual mobility for citizens.

The hardware would be needed to ensure this freedom - Retrofitting a good way or not?

Mattes: Hardware retrofitting is not expedient for two main reasons: Until it is in the vehicles where it would be technically possible at all, To the extent that it has been implemented so that it is 'roadworthy' including an operating permit etc., it takes at least two to three years. By then we must have completely resolved the nitrogen oxide problem. In this respect, we shouldn't invest any money in developing such approaches now. The software updates work much faster, as does the inventory renewal. And on the other hand, all hardware upgrades have the disadvantage that the cars then emit more CO2 and consumption increases. But none of us want more CO2 emissions. From this point of view, retrofitting the hardware makes no sense.

What is the automotive industry doing in terms of compliance with CO2 limit values? For the first time, the CO2 emissions from newly registered cars in Germany are rising again ...

Mattes: We have binding targets by the EU Commission by 2021 that must be met. And the automotive industry is working to achieve these goals. That has become more difficult because the diesel share of new car registrations is falling. The modern Euro 6 diesel is part of the solution, not the problem. This applies to CO2, because it is significantly better than a comparable gasoline engine. And the nitrogen oxide question no longer arises with the new diesel models. We should therefore give the modern diesel another chance, it has enormous efficiency advantages.

Arturo Rivas
Restoring the formerly impeccable reputation of the German automotive industry is the task of Bernhard Mattes.
The focus on electric vehicles isbut actually unreasonable if you look at them holistically. E-mobility only partially solves the ecological problem ...

Mattes: We need all types of drive: battery-electric cars, plug-in hybrids, optimized combustion engines, hydrogen and Fuel cell, also the gas drive. E-mobility will grow faster, but we will have petrol and diesel for many years to come. It's not an either-or. We should also use the opportunities offered by climate-neutral synthetic e-fuels. All the experts agree: This brings major CO2 savings across the entire fleet of over 46 million cars in Germany and does not only apply to new registrations. And at some point we will also have to lead the discussion that it is not enough to simply look at and evaluate the fuel consumption of cars from refueling to driving - that is, “tank-to-wheel” - but that one can consider the entire chain of effects from extraction the drive energy up to the fuel consumption - the so-called 'well-to-wheel' - has to be taken as an order of magnitude when it comes to sustainability.

See yourself as a partner or counterpart about German politics?

Mattes: I see my job as representing the interests of the automotive industry as a whole. But not through a cuddle course with politicians, but rather through the fact that we as the VDA show what effects regulatory framework conditions mean for the future of the German automotive industry; from our point of view and with our expertise. We also clearly state which priorities must be set in order to secure Germany as an industrial location. The coalition agreement contains many positive things about the future of mobility. We will actively participate in the implementation, and I am convinced that we simply have to become much faster in many things.

What exactly do we have to become faster in Germany?

Mattes: Other countries are much faster when it comes to digitizing and creating the infrastructure. You can also learn from other markets when introducing innovative technologies, e.g. B. in early practical testing. That does not mean that we should throw the preventive character in Europe and Germany overboard. That is right and necessary. But minimum standards should be established as soon as possible for a quick introduction. Then the development in the market must be closely monitored and adjusted as required. We mustn't waste any time.

Does German industry place too high demands on itself?

Mattes: Our standards are rightly very high - and a quality feature of this industry. No, it's about the framework. The topic extends far into the digitization and networking of traffic, toohow we handle data. These are very exciting and very sensitive questions. We have to strategically bundle our forces from politics, science and industry for the development and introduction of technologies, we have to become more agile and efficient, otherwise algorithm-based traffic flows and models from Asia could set the standard. Our strength is innovation!


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