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在线翻译:
szdaily -> World Economy
Asleep at the wheel? Germany frets about economic car crash
    2017-July-31  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

DAIMLER chief executive Dieter Zetsche beamed as he posed for cameras in a Mercedes-Benz electric car after meeting politicians to discuss the future of the auto industry in Stuttgart, birthplace of the combustion engine.

What the pictures do not reveal is that the Mercedes EQ car was a prototype that had to be dragged into the city square by four employees before the shoot.

Daimler’s EQ brand will only hit the road at the end of the decade. It’s a sign of how Germany has been slow to embrace electric vehicles and associated technology as it clings to the combustion engine that has driven its post-war prosperity.

“China dominates the production of solar cells. Tesla is ahead in electric cars and Germany has lost the first round of digitalization to Google, Apple and the like,” said Winfried Kretschmann, who is premier of the region where Daimler is based and hosted the meeting with Zetsche and other car bosses.

“Whether Germany has a future as an industrial economy will depend on whether we can manage the ecological and digital transformation of our economy,” Kretschmann said.

Despite booming car exports and high employment in the industry, there is a sense of unease: “Is the car finished?” asked the weekly Die Zeit. “Fear in car country,” said Stern magazine.

Those fears have been mounting since the Volkswagen emissions scandal broke in 2015.

But the angst extends beyond cars to the broader economy, even though exports are booming and unemployment low. Politicians fear Germany is failing to invest enough in new technology and infrastructure.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has made preparing Germany for the digital age big part of her campaign for national elections Sept. 24, pledging to boost research and development spending.

“I firmly believe that digitalization does not mean we will have fewer jobs per se,” Merkel said.

“If, however, jobs that are lost are not replaced by new jobs created by the management of large amounts of data ... then we will have problems,” she added.

Merkel is aware of the risks to Germany’s auto industry, noting that only one maker of horse-drawn carriages — U.S. firm Studebaker — survived the invention of the modern car by German engineer Karl Benz 131 years ago.

“We must manage the move of today’s auto industry to the car of the 21st century better than the switch from horse power to the car,” she said in January.

Germany has fallen behind in developing the cells that are at the heart of electric vehicles, with most imported from Asia, and has also been slow to build charging stations, abandoning a target to have 1 million electric cars on the roads by 2020.

The country needs to spend between 50 billion euros (US$1 trillion) to 80 billion euros on electric cars infrastructure, said Rolf Bulander, a board member at auto supplier Bosch.

In March, Daimler said it was speeding up its electric car program, aiming to bring more than 10 new models to market by 2022 through 10 billion euros of investment.(SD-Agencies)

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