“We have to decide how to keep Europe competitive as a continent”
VDE: I'd like to ask one more question about this. In the past, Germany's core expertise was the engine and powertrain. Today, key components such as the battery come from Asia. It’s one of the most cost-intensive parts of the vehicle. Isn't it a little worrying that this expertise is located elsewhere?
Müller: “Of course, other regions want to develop their own markets. That will make competition tougher, because we have growing economies. But competition is also good news for the consumer, it's worth emphasizing. But let's come back to the groundwork; what is the environment like for innovation? How quickly does the government make decisions? Can we produce the important battery cells here if we pursue an energy policy that is not competitive internationally?
The German automotive industry has always been aware that it operates in global markets – around 70 percent of our jobs in Germany depend on exports. There is an international division of labor, which is a good thing and leads to growth, prosperity and open markets overall. But if protectionism returns, we need to consider how competitive Germany is as a business location. We need to become faster and more resolute, we need to pursue an energy policy that provides more energy. Germany invests a lot, but too often the focus is on combating symptoms without addressing their causes. Europe must also find its own way. While the USA has the Inflation Reduction Act and China works with direct subsidies, the EU too often relies on regulation. We need to find our own approach and decide how to keep Europe competitive as a continent.”
VDE: Let's turn the focus from the world back once again to the product. We have many vehicles on the roads and many people who cannot afford a new vehicle for 40,000 or 50,000 euros. If you look around the market, there is almost nothing on offer for less than 30,000 euros.
Müller: “First of all, I can think of some models under 30,000 euros, but I don't want to explicitly promote individual suppliers here. You have to bear in mind that we have certain expectations when it comes to the modernity, safety, efficiency and comfort of a car and that we are in the middle of a transformation phase. This means it takes high development costs and investments in converting factories before we can produce on a massive scale. However, we hope that electric cars will become cheaper than those with a combustion engine.
We're aware that this is also a hot social and political topic at the moment, which is why we have criticized the German government for cutting subsidies for electric cars. I'm certainly not calling for subsidies for the automotive industry. But politicians must consider how they can support consumers. The accusation that we are only targeting the premium segment is definitely wrong. Our goal is also clearly to provide products for the mass market.”
VDE: As we come to the end of the interview, let's talk about the cooperation between VDE and VDA. What are your thoughts on this?
Müller: “I see our cooperation as very positive. We have the same goal, climate-neutral mobility, and we complement each other very well with our expertise. We work well together not only on the here and now, but also on future topics such as the standardization roadmap for hydrogen technologies. So thank you very much for this great working relationship.”
VDE: Last question: what advice can you give young people for their future?
Müller: “I believe that in a diverse world, you definitely have to be open. You should network, including with other industries, because that's how you get a lot of inspiration, ideas and tips. Sometimes you hear something exciting that you hadn't even thought of. Of course, there are classic career paths, which is also a good thing. My advice is to listen to your gut feelings and be prepared to start something new. Enthusiasm, passion and commitment are of course part of it. Maybe I can bang the drum for my organization at this point (laughs). We are always looking for motivated, committed young people who are enthusiastic about climate-neutral and digital mobility.”
Ms. Müller, thank you very much for the interview.