German automakers appear to be finally waking up to climate neutrality - op-ed
The reality of having to shift to climate-neutral production and products has finally hit German automakers, writes Rolf Obertreis in an opinion piece in the Frankfurter Rundschau. A combination of political expediency, stringent EU pollution targets, investor expectations and competition from e-car makers all mean that Germany’s most famous exporters are now publicly and privately committing to a sustainable future, he says.
Manufacturers are even going on the offensive, according to Obertreis. Just a few months ago, the EU target of new cars emitting below 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre on average across a manufacturer’s fleet seemed a pipe dream for most. But now the likes of Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW and Opel are confident they will meet it. This year BMW will cut its average fleet emissions by 20 percent of its previous level of 127 g/km, primarily through the expansion of its electric fleet and Daimler wants a completely CO2-neutral fleet of new vehicles by 2039. External pressure is a major driver of this transformation, as politicians and major investors, such as the asset manager Blackrock and fund managers Deka and DWS, are breathing down the automakers’ necks, while US firm Tesla is leading the e-car charge, Obertreis says.
Transport is an important target in Germany’s energy transition, yet vehicle emissions remain stubbornly high. The big German car manufacturers, who invested massively in diesel technology in recent years, were slow to react to EU emissions targets and the growing e-car trend, and have recently been playing catch-up. Government subsidies and tax incentives have helped spur them into action, but it is still widely thought that some will face big fines for missing the 2021 EU target.