Germany’s automakers are spending hundreds of billions of euros for the transition to electric propulsion. It is the country’s biggest industrial gamble since the Second World War – and it may not work.
The auto industry is going against the wishes of consumers, who do not want electric cars, according to polls, and cannot afford them. It’s fighting unions, who suspect the phase-out of regular cars is a ruse to fire them or pay them less.
And it will soon be at odds with cities, which of course prefer electric cars to emission-spewing ones but would rather have no cars at all, because their streets are clogged to the point of paralysis.
Volkswagen alone expects to spend €60-billion ($88-billion) on electric, hybrid and digital technology in the next five years, the equivalent of almost 70 per cent of its stock-market value. The company intends to have eight MEB – modular electric drive – plants humming away on three continents by 2022. It calls its strategy an “electric offensive,” as if it’s going to war against its own fleet of traditional cars.
Good luck, Volkswagen, Daimler (owner of Mercedes-Benz) and BMW. The electric bet is a lot riskier than it appears.