End of thermal: Germany unites with Brussels

Decision-making in the European Union is always very long. And when it comes to rocking an entire industry that employs 12.6 million people across the old continent, according to ACEA, the association of European car manufacturers, we take a lot of precautions and look twice.

Such is the case with the planned 2035 ban on the production of thermal cars. An important step was taken earlier this month when deputies from the Committee on Ecology, Health and Food Safety approved the text by a narrow majority (44 votes in favor and 40 against).

Since then, various countries of the Union have been campaigning behind the scenes before the final vote on the draft by the European deputies, who are due to meet in a month to vote for or against the famous ban. Therefore, we might fear or rejoice at the obstruction of the main country interested in this future directive, namely Germany.

Germany swings in favor of the swing

However, since yesterday, it seems that Olaf Scholz’s government approves the shift requested by Brussels. The NGO “Transport and Environment” has combined its traditional “European Automotive Climate Summit” this Wednesday, which brought together decision-makers in the main car-producing countries across the Union, whether manufacturers or political leaders.

At the end of this rout, each country spoke, and the choice of the first of them, Germany, seems obvious: the measure is approved by Berlin, and with it Italy and Spain. Clearly, three countries out of 27 do not make up the majority. But the weight of German industry in this area is significant and may well influence many others to vote in their favour.

This is because a car in Germany weighs four times as much as in France. The Rhine employs over 800,000 people and produced 3.5 million vehicles in 2020, compared to less than a million here. This heavyweight is also the Union’s leading vehicle market and the world’s fourth-largest producing country after China, the US and Japan. Suffice it to say that his voice counts a little more than the voice of others, and he may well win the support of several countries, especially those in the East where German manufacturers have production units.

In Wolfsburg, where this Volkswagen delivery center is located, the choice for electric vehicles is clear.

But why is Germany sticking to this project, undoubtedly the most important in its entire automotive history? Simply because its industry did not wait for the directive from Brussels to begin its refurbishment. 150 billion euros have already been invested in this transition, and the superstructure is not yet completed. As a result, no one, from Mercedes to BMW through the Volkswagen Group, wants to lose their share, and the Berlin government is well aware of this.

What remains is the case with France. If the weight of the car is less important here than on the other side of the Rhine, it remains significant. But Paris must also approve the text. If he didn’t do it yesterday, it’s simply because the government hasn’t been formed yet. However, there is no doubt that the appointment of Elisabeth Bourne to Matignon and the clear directives that the Élysée Palace has entrusted to her regarding the environment can only push France to accept the text.

Admittedly, Carlos Tavares, boss of Stellantis, says he is skeptical about the announced transition and doesn’t hesitate to talk about it. But he should not object to Italy’s unequivocal choice yesterday in favor of this measure, because it is difficult for him to go against the decision of the country from which he has just included the main car brands in his group. Since it will be difficult for him to resist the choice of Matignon, who must decide quickly.