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Källenius: E-car turnaround costs jobs, Diess contradicts

Mercedes has just announced a faster switch to electric drive. The Daimler CEO is now announcing that this will result in fewer employees in 2030. VW boss Herbert Diess, on the other hand, considers the "negative scenarios" for the job situation after the e-car transformation to be exaggerated.

In July 2021, Daimler announced that Mercedes was preparing to "go fully electric before the end of the decade – wherever market conditions allow". "Electric mobility is gaining momentum - especially in the luxury segment, where Mercedes-Benz is at home. The turning point is approaching and we will be ready when the markets switch completely to electric cars by the end of the decade," said Ola Källenius , Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG As early as 2025, around 50 percent of new sales should be fully electric cars or those with plug-in hybrid drives - twice as many as previously planned.,

2030 fewer Daimler employees than now

Källenius announced that investments would be redistributed in order to make "the accelerated transformation profitable". "I am convinced that we will succeed with our highly qualified and highly motivated workforce," said Källenius optimistically in the strategy update. The "Welt am Sonntag However, he said on August 1st that this workforce would shrink again by 2030: "You also have to be honest with the people: the assembly of a combustion engine tors involves more work than building an electric axle," Källenius told the newspaper. "Even if we were to build the entire electric drive train ourselves, we will employ fewer people at the end of the decade," says Källenius.

A study by the management consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG) , on the other hand, shows that the switch to e-mobility does not cost jobs, they would only be relocated. "The comparison of work volume, that three employees are required for a diesel drive and only one employee for an electric drive, only applies to the engine," said study author and BCG partner Daniel Küpper to the Handelsblatt. "The amount of work required to build a complete electric car is almost as high as for a car with an internal combustion engine."

Conversion to electric drive only costs jobs at Daimler

That's why Ola Källenius also concedes that the transformation will also result in new, high-quality jobs in the course of the conversion. Küpper mentions, for example, the battery cell and battery module production, the battery packaging as well as the power electronics and the thermal management of the battery. And vehicle assembly is even more labor-intensive than with a combustion engine vehicle, and the more complex laying of the wiring harness also plays a role here.

But Källenius is thinking about his company and knows that Daimler has not yet planned its own cell production. Because like most car manufacturers, he sees the technology leadership for this in Asia.That's why Mercedes has also concluded far-reaching cooperation agreements, for example with the Chinese cell specialists Farasis and CATL . Until recently, Farasis was planning cell production near Bitterfeld, while CATL is building a huge battery factory in Thuringia, which should go into operation as early as 2022 and will offer 2,000 new jobs when it is completed. Workforce that is not created at Daimler. ,

There, the conversion of the core Mercedes brand to electric drives brings the farewell to the combustion engine closer. New vehicle architectures are to be designed for pure electric drives from 2025 (see gallery), only the Mercedes Modular Architecture (MMA ) for models up to the size of the C-Class, which will debut in 2024, will then be the only one that can still carry combustion engines.,

Even the works council is following the change: "You can't swim against the tide when the whole world is pushing ahead with battery-electric drives," said employee representative Michael Brecht of the world on Sunday. In the workforce, however, there is still resistance: "Some colleagues still believe that we could continue like this for a while," says Brecht.

Sure, because so far Daimler has mainly made its money with cars powered exclusively by combustion engines. The share of fully electric vehicles accounted for just over three percent of total sales in the first half of the year; a slightly higher proportion of hybrid cars changes little, especially since the PHEV models also have a diesel or petrol engine on board.

VW does not see any dramatic job losses because of the change

VW boss Herbert Diess considers "all the negative scenarios that are sometimes drawn" to be "exaggerated", as he told the dpa and dpa-AFX news agencies in an interview. "We remain a carmaker." Vehicle manufacturing will still be VW's core business at the end of the decade, although the cars have changed significantly.

"In order to build many cars, you will still need many people in production in 2030," says Diess. "And many will be doing pretty much the same jobs as today. Maybe more automated, but it's still essentially production." This does not rule out the possibility that the simultaneous development of more IT competence will bring about major changes and comprehensive rethinking. "Of course we will grow in the software area with new employees," said the manager. "But unlike in fast-paced industries, change in the auto industry takes a lot of time. Two model life cycles are 15 years for us. Tesla is here today - after 15 years of hard work."

"If we continue to do well, a large part of the jobs can certainly be saved, grow in certain areas, shrink in others," the CEO is certain. Even "70 percent of the suppliers go through this transformation as if there were none.Seats remain seats, steel remains steel, wheels remain wheels, brakes remain brakes," Diess points out that a car consists of much more than the drive. Of course, a lot is happening there. But change is overestimated there too. After all, it is Drive is already not "the most labour-intensive" area. "A motor has a production time of about one hour in our house, compared to 20 to 30 for a vehicle", Diess substantiates his assessment with figures. However, Diess talks about batteries and cell production not, but he might be thinking of that when he says that the question in the coming years is more like: "Are we going to stay competitive with the new competitors like those from Asia?"


The warning from Daimler boss Ola Källenius that the switch to electric drives will reduce the number of jobs initially only refers to his company – because Daimler cannot cover part of the value creation in electric cars: the production of battery cells. Mercedes assembles them into modules and entire batteries in Kamenz or Hedelfingen, but will have to source millions of battery cells from Asian suppliers over the next few years. Even if they, like the industry leader CATL, set up a plant in Germany, the employees there are not part of Mercedes.

VW can at least count on the production of its "unit cell" and on six giga factories by 2030, which will produce batteries for the group. However, the extent to which VW jobs will be created there is difficult to calculate. Northvolt AB will operate the first location in Skellefteå, Sweden. After all, the second location is planned in Germany. In mid-July 2021, the Group also signed a contract with a Chinese cell specialist (Gotion High-Tech) as a technology partner for the Salzgitter factory.

How the number of employees in the car industry will develop with the switch to electric drives in Germany depends primarily on the extent to which battery or cell production can be established in this country. Either the car manufacturers can try that or leave it to the Asian specialists. That could be decisive in how the number of employees at car manufacturers in Germany changes on the bottom line.


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