German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday took a two-hour tour of the Frankfurt motor show just 10 days ahead of a general election in which she is seeking a fourth term.
At the IAA in Germany's financial capital, Merkel came together with leaders of the domestic car industry, which employs some 800,000 people and is often considered a barometer of the German economy.
Merkel had been facing pressure for being too close to powerful carmakers in an effort to retain jobs and boost the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
She told executives that a lot of trust had been destroyed. "That is why the industry must do everything to win back confidence — in its own interest and that of employees and German industry as a whole," Merkel said in Frankfurt.
E-mobility the new buzzword
While touching on the damage that VW and others had caused through various emissions-cheating and collusion scandals, the German chancellor praised manufacturers for their current endeavors to promote automated driving, electric mobility and urban mobility concepts.
As the industry faces potential diesel car bans in cities and compensation claims, executives have taken refuge in grand promises of an electric and hybrid future.
German titans Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler all announced far-reaching electric vehicle programs, hoping to hit ambitious e-car sales targets with a flood of new models by the mid-2020s. But those targets will be hard to meet, given many drawbacks such as long recharging times and low ranges.
Merkel noted the industry faced many challenges, such as suggestions that China might eventually ban combustion engines. But she predicted combustion engines would still be needed as a bridging technology for decades as demand was booming in many parts of the world.
hg/jd (dpa, AFP)