German car bosses optimistic after meeting Trump

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Top German carmaker execs in Washington

Top executives from Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW met with US President Donald Trump seeking to stave off pending tariffs on automobile imports. The German bosses promised to invest more in the US.

The heads of Germany's three largest carmakers met with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, in an effort to resolve the impasse that has led to looming 25 percent auto tariffs.  

The White House has claimed that American manufacturers are treated unfairly by the Europeans and Trump said he seeks "reciprocal" trade deals to help protect and grow US manufacturing jobs.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the aim of the talks was to pare down the $30 billion (€26.5 billion) trade deficit the US has with Germany in cars and auto parts, which comprises of half the $66 billion total US deficit with the EU.

"We made a big step forward to avoid the tariffs," Volkswagen chief Herbert Diess said after the meeting.

Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche echoed the sentiment, saying that the "implicit potential threat" of new tariffs had been reduced after the talks.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said after the meeting that Trump "shared his vision of all automakers producing in the United States and creating a more friendly business environment."

Balancing act

DW's financial correspondent in New York, Jens Korte, said Washington was looking to put pressure on Germany, as Europe's biggest economy, to steer trade talks with the EU. The German executives, on the other hand, were there to "convince Trump how important the German car industry is for the US economy."

The visit did not go down well in Brussels, however: EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is the person responsible for conducting trade talks between Europe and the US.

The executives rejected fears their trip would endanger negotiations and that they had planned the meeting at the White House in consultation with both Brussels and Berlin.

Read more: Does the world still love German cars?

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Increased US investment

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow also said the goal was to encourage German automakers to invest more and manufacture more in the United States.

"The president has a point," Diess said, adding that US officials "tried to convince us to invest more into America and we are prepared to do this."

Read more: Why higher US tariffs on car imports would backfire

Volkswagen is in talks with the Ford Motor Company about a partnership to build VW vehicles at some of Ford's US factories.

VW is also considering the possible construction of an electric vehicles plant in the US. 

Daimler chairman Zetsche told reporters that to increase US investments, current conditions must remain unchanged.

BMW  described itself as a committed "local player" with a plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, that employs nearly 10,000 people. Last week, the company said it was considering building a second manufacturing plant in the United States to produce engines and transmissions. The decision, however, has not been finalized.

No German cars among top-selling all-electric vehicles

Crossover SUV in 5th place

Tesla sold 33,000 units of its Model X in 2017, according to data from UK-based market researcher JATO Dynamics. That puts the mid-sized luxury car with falcon wing doors in 5th position in the list of last year's best-selling fully electric cars.

No German cars among top-selling all-electric vehicles

Tiny and a bit whimsical, but ...

...successful nonetheless was the Zotye Zhidou (ZD) from China. Some 42,000 units of the model were shipped last year, with the tiny vehicles becoming increasingly popular in the Asian nation where affordablility can be a universal selling point.

No German cars among top-selling all-electric vehicles

Turning over a new leaf

Japanese carmaker Nissan introduced its Nissan Leaf back in 2010, banking on e-mobility at an early stage. The five-door hatchback proved the third most sold all-electric vehicle in 2017 (46,000 units). Leaf batteries can be charged to 80-percent capacity in 30 minutes.

No German cars among top-selling all-electric vehicles

Where acceleration matters

Tesla Model S cars are able to pick up speed very rapidly thanks to their all-electric powertrain technology. The vehicle features autopilot capabilities, making driving safer and less stressful. Some 47,000 people bought the Model S last year — only one model reached even more buyers.

No German cars among top-selling all-electric vehicles

And the winner is ...

...China's BAIC EC. The compact electric city vehicle has fared well especially in its home market due to its trendy design and an improved range of 200 kilometers (125 miles) per charge. A record 78,000 units left the showrooms in 2017.

jcg/rt (dpa, reuters)

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