Gas2 Week in Review: German Carmakers on the Hot Seat and More
German carmakers made the top news this week on Gas2, with two separate issues catching the interest of our readers. Many were amazed to hear that the U.S. President threatened to halt German carmakers’ products in the U.S., and Trump’s understanding of basic international trade principles came under fire. An investigation into Daimler’s possible corruption of vehicle emission standards caused our readers to voice concerns. In another carmaker story that spurred our readers to comment, Subaru announced it would finally enter the EV market, acknowledging that international demand may have exceeded the company’s initial forecasts.
Closer to home, with the reality of climate change hitting most people in the U.S., controversies about U.S. carmakers continued. Ford’s Mark Fields’ reluctance to expand beyond combustion engines caused his ouster as CEO this week, albeit with a hefty separation package. Hydrogen alternatives generated tremendous debate, too, among our readers.
Here are those stories and more on this edition of “Gas2 Week in Review.”
In an amazing performance at a NATO function in Brussels, Donald Trump announced to the assembled dignitaries, “The Germans are bad, very bad. Look at the millions of cars they sell in the U.S. We will stop this.” Trump’s clear misunderstanding of international trade could have devastating effects on the U.S. economy. The MIT Observatory of Economic Complexity, which visualizes international trade data, says that Germany has a $252 billion positive trade balance, with the majority of goods being cars. 12% of its exports are directly related to German automakers, with the U.S. as largest consumer of German cars. Not only were German automakers who heard Trump’s remarks horrified— so, too, were economists were seemed shocked at the U.S. leader’s lack of basic understanding of international trade agreements.
250 members of German law enforcement searched 11 Daimler offices this week as part of an investigation into potentially fraudulent emissions data. 23 prosecutors and 230 police officers searched company offices across the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Berlin, Lower Saxony, and Saxony. Daimler said it was cooperating with authorities, whose investigation surrounds fraud and misleading advertising. One of our readers aptly noted, “It’s an uphill battle for the losers as the consumers will be acquiring new brand loyalties.”
To keep up with changes in the marketplace, particularly in China, Subaru has come to the realization that it needs to add electric cars to its offerings. Subaru CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga told the press last week that his company will focus on adding electric motors to its current models rather than creating a separate electric car division. Yoshinaga also said his company expects to have a battery electric car to sell to customers by the beginning of the next decade. Subaru may not have time to wait, as it is already late to the Cars with Plugs Party.
The keys to the first three Ampera E cars were handed over to their new owners by Opel Norway boss Bernt G. Jessen in a brief ceremony last week. Jessen expressed gratitude to Opel for choosing Norway as the first European country to receive the Ampera E. Today, about 25% of all new cars sold in Norway are electrics. Our readers were curious about the manufacturing behind the Opel and whether Tesla can find a viable electric car market in Norway.
Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Company, has been removed from his leadership role due to an inability to leverage the current product line as well as a reluctance to position Ford for the future. Fields has frequently stated that there is no market for electric cars and has decried governmental pressure that requires manufacturers to build products that move beyond combustion engines. His defeatist thinking is archaic in a world that is rapidly transitioning to renewable energy and is turning its back on fossil fuels. As one of our readers put it, “Ford needs to follow Volvo, which recently announced it was moving to EVs and PHEVs.”
News that researchers out of the University of Houston have created the case for a possible shift to a hydrogen economy made for lots of reader commentary this week on Gas2. The researchers have developed a three-part thesis: 1) they have developed a catalyst that can split water into hydrogen and oxygen; 2) this catalyst is composed of easily available, low-cost materials; 3) they claim it operates far more efficiently than the most recent advanced catalysts. Here are some of the more interesting responses from our loyal Gas2 readers:
- “Really, why hydrogen? There are other things you can power a fuel cell with, that can in principle be made carbon neutral with appropriate technology (methane being the most obvious);”
- “In an ideal world, at this point in time, we should have completely phased out fossil fuels in favour of nuclear;”
- ” The round trip efficiency of lithium ion batteries currently in mass production is typically >90%. What is the figure for a setup using this experimental catalyst?”
- “The existing infrastructure for moving, storing ,and selling oil and gasoline is not fit for moving, storing, and selling hydrogen;”
- “Hydrogen returns less energy than you used to get it, therefore it’s energy storage and not an energy source.”
The discussion on a proposed hydrogen economy was quite robust! Check out the other comments to get the full debate.