Can German carmakers come up with competition for Tesla?

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Image: BMW Group AG via AFP Relaxnews

German motor manufacturers are regarded as among the very best in the world for quality and innovation, but a leading government official has been bemoaning the lack of any significant German challenge to Tesla in the all-electric vehicle segment. Peter Altmaier, the chief of staff to the German Chancellor, has called on the country’s motor industry to invest more in electric vehicle technology, and has even outlined a challenge.

Following the much-publicized diesel emissions scandal, Altmaier is said to be disappointed by German auto industry executives’ lack of a serious challenge to the preeminence of Tesla in the electric vehicle segment. He’s also said to be concerned for the long-term future of the 600,000 people employed by the industry in Germany.

At a public forum on Saturday, Altmaier commented: “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? It must be possible to set this as a goal.”

The emissions cheating scandal is only one of the issues facing diesel-powered models, which German and other European automakers currently rely on quite heavily for sales. After years of encouraging buyers to choose diesel for its low carbon dioxide emissions, governments across Europe are now considering imposing draconian restrictions on diesel-powered vehicles. That’s because it’s now apparent the rest of what comes out of their exhaust pipes is extremely bad for air quality. All-electric may be the solution, but the momentum towards EVs is far slower than governments and environmental campaigners want to see.

Tesla’s German website has the Model X SUV listed with a range as good as 417 kilometers for sale at €91,250 ($109,000). Tesla has also now added a more affordable vehicle in the shape of the Model 3 sedan, which costs from $35,000 and began being delivered to United States customers in July.

At the moment, among German manufacturers, only BMW currently offers one EV in the shape of the i3 that’s not based on an existing combustion-engine car. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand and Volkswagen revealed plans a year ago to produce all-new battery-only models to challenge Tesla, but only by the end of the decade.

Altmaier added, “If the automobile industry doesn’t grasp the fact that it has to invest more in electric vehicles, especially in cities, then it will be very hard to defend combustion engines, gasoline and diesel, over the long term. We must do all we can now, so that the best electric cars are built in Germany.” JB

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