November 19th, 2018 by Dr. Maximilian Holland
The German minister for Economic Affairs, Peter Altmaier, has delivered a hardcore smackdown to local auto giants, asking them when they will build EVs that are “half as sexy as a Tesla.”
Isn’t the beaver-mouthed BMW iNEXT sexy enough for Herr Altmaier?
As reported by Handelsblatt, minister Altmaier was attending an AI event in Berlin over the weekend with the CEOs of Daimler and VW when he asked the auto bosses:
“I really wonder when you, Mr. Zetsche, or you, Mr. Diess, or Mr. Krüger from BMW will be in a position to build an electric car that is half as sexy as a Tesla. As far as the attractiveness of your e-cars is concerned, you could actually come up with some fresh ideas.” (translated)
The CEOs didn’t respond to this particular question (and BMW’s Krüger wasn’t himself present). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. However, VW’s boss Diess acknowledged falling behind in the area of vehicle AI and autonomy, saying, “But we are determined to catch up. The game is not lost yet.”
Daimler’s Zetsche talked about getting the right balance between pushing forwards on autonomy and adopting a precautionary approach. “What we do not want is regulation that gives the industry a completely free hand, which simply waves everything through.”
At the same time, Zetsche was prepared to gaze into his crystal ball into the future, predicting that autonomy would initially take hold in haulage, in commercial vehicles, and on highways. He predicted that these developments would come before robotaxis. Perhaps he’s unaware that Waymo is already rolling out a robotaxi service in Phoenix, Arizona.
Just Good Friends?
To his credit, Peter Altmaier has a strong record of pushing the lethargic German auto industry towards electrification. In April of this year, we reported on him calling on the industry to invest tens of billions of euros into EVs. Then, in August, he asked, “When is our automobile industry, which is so good, actually going to be in a position to build a car that travels 50 kilometers further than a Tesla and costs 10,000 euros less?”
Just a couple of months ago, Altmaier was at it again, announcing plans for government support of battery cell research and production in Germany, amounting to some €2 billion. There’s no doubt that Altmaier wants to be a good friend to the Germany electromobility industry, even though he doesn’t find it sexy.