Conference at the "Hannover Messe"

Trade union calls for consistent support for the transformation of the automotive industry

04/25/2024 | Due to the ongoing challenges and dynamic changes in the industry, IG Metall emphasizes the need for a consistent industrial policy and support for the transition to electromobility. As part of its regional automotive conference, IG Metall invited various stakeholders from industry, science and employee representatives to engage in dialogue about the future of the German automotive industry.

Christiane Benner at the IG Metall automotive conference at the Hannover Messe. Photographer: Heiko Stumpe.

Despite the record profits of individual companies, the situation in the German automotive industry remains tense. Production figures are recovering slowly, while cost-cutting programs are being introduced and plants are being relocated. International competition, particularly with US and Asian manufacturers, is becoming increasingly fierce. At the same time, the ramp-up of electromobility in Germany is faltering, although it continues to grow in the most important international markets.

IG Metall emphasizes the central role of electromobility for the climate-friendly restructuring of industry in Germany. A fair transition will secure sustainable industrial jobs. The union is calling for politicians to pursue a clear and reliable industrial policy in order to create the framework for the necessary change. It is important to avoid short-sighted populism and not let the future of the European automotive industry fall victim to populism.

IG Metall underlines:

  1. The promotion of electromobility plays a key role in the agenda for an ecologically sustainable realignment of German industry. This transformation must take place fairly in order to secure and create jobs in the long term. Battery electric vehicles are the key players on the road to a more environmentally friendly and economically efficient automotive sector. They outperform traditional drive types such as e-fuels or hydrogen in terms of availability, energy efficiency, environmental compatibility and costs.
  2. At the same time, the German automotive industry is challenged to keep up with the strong competition from Asia and the USA. It is essential that we do not let up in this global competition. Although the combustion engine still plays a role for the time being by generating the funds for future technologies and powering hybrid vehicles, it is clear that the dominant future technology in the mass production of passenger cars lies in battery-electric mobility.
  3. After the European elections, it is imperative to avoid falling back into old patterns. The days of constantly changing directives and requirements must come to an end. The industry has adapted to the existing regulatory framework and made significant investments. A relapse into populist tendencies would jeopardize the progress and future of the automotive industry in Europe.
  4. It is crucial that a coherent, stable industrial policy is pursued. An inconsistent approach risks jeopardizing jobs within the industry. Now is the time to push ahead with infrastructure measures such as promoting charging points, reducing the cost of charging electricity and renewing vehicle fleets. Investment in the future is essential, while hesitation can lead to job losses.
  5. In order to successfully implement the technological and paradigm shift in companies and businesses, a well-qualified workforce is required. There is a considerable need for further development in the area of promoting and organizing further training. In the organizational area of IG Metall, the “Niedersächsische Transformationsagentur GmbH” has been advising companies on the further development of their internal structures and offers for employee qualification and further training since 2022.

“We now need courageous investment in industry and its employees. This means strengthening charging infrastructure, digitalization and artificial intelligence in production through industrial policy, but it also means investing in training, further education, infrastructure in Germany and easing energy costs. Binding prospects and planning security are key, especially for the automotive industry and its employees. No more toing and froing over annual figures and technologies, just clear data, clear regulations and clear statements,” said Christiane Benner, First Chairwoman of IG Metall.

The largest industrial trade union is calling on the German government to launch a new stimulus package for the ramp-up of electromobility in order to send a signal to the market. Among other things, this requires discounted charging electricity, CO2-oriented reforms and a mix of requirements and funding for the expansion of the charging infrastructure.

Lower Saxony's Minister of Economic Affairs, Olaf Lies, also took part in the IG Metall panel discussion at the Hannover Messe and emphasized: “The automotive industry is facing what is probably the greatest challenge in the shortest possible time. What we need now is reliability and trust. This applies to the development of the charging infrastructure and also to energy prices. This will be a tour de force for politicians, which can only succeed in close cooperation with the social partners. For customers, electromobility must be predictable, financially secure, cheaper than combustion engines in the long term, convenient to charge, clean thanks to green, affordable electricity and therefore attractive. It is the combination of these incentives that will make electromobility successful. Energy prices in particular will also play a central role here. They are the obvious and immediate lever. It is a good sign that they are stabilizing again for the time being. But we must continue to bring prices down. Grid fees account for around a third of the costs here. If we temporarily cushion the costs of grid expansion here, it would be a quick boost not only for our industry, but also for all electricity customers. This would have to be financed via the federal budget or via a newly conceived climate and transformation fund. That would be a central measure that would help in all areas. It would create important impetus for investment. And we create incentives on the demand side instead of bans. Lower, reliable energy costs are good for the investment location and they make e-mobility attractive.”

Marcel Verweinen, Senior Vice President HR Country Germany at Continental, emphasizes the need for a successful transformation: “We created a powerful infrastructure early on to successfully manage the transformation in Germany. At the heart of this are established instruments such as the CITT, a clearly defined process for training employees and the company's internal labor market. We have taken the next step with ContiMotion GmbH. Together with the social partners, we have created an instrument that can be used to compensate for temporary staff surpluses more flexibly in the interests of employees.”