The inexorable rise of China as a significant automotive manufacturer and market, was one of the trends highlighted by Prof Dr Werner Neubauer, board member of Volkswagen AG, in his opening presentation for the FSK meeting.
Noting VW’s stated intention to become the world’s No 1 carmaker and overtake General Motors by 2018, Neubauer ran through VW’s view of the world market, and its approach region by region to achieving this aim.
One forthcoming challenge will be that, as car production in India and China surges, their exports will start to encroach on the EU markets, the VW executive warned.
Discussing CO2 emissions limits, Neubauer concluded that the EU does not yet have a solution with e-cars: there are “still problems to be solved.”
Neubauer noted that the world vehicle market has gone in a decade to Asia now leading with a third of the market (from a quarter), with North America’s share dropping to a quarter (from a third), while Europe’s share dropped to a fifth (from a quarter).
Neubauer also highlighted a trend in Germany: private ownership is a diminishing share of the car market, as leasing, rentals and fleet ownership rises.
Another revelation at this meeting was that for young people, “having a car is no longer top of the wishlist.”
Neubauer listed global problems that need addressing: China’s housing bubble; Europe’s budget deficit countries and bank debt issues; rebuilding Japan after the tsunami and earthquake; and the instability following the ‘Arab Spring’ in North Africa and the Middle East.
As a final caution, the VW board member stressed that the “financial crisis remains to be resolved, and the situation is still very fragile.”
Neubauer’s point that young people are no longer obsessed by the urge to own a car was reinforced by Prof Andreas Knie of Innoz — the Innovation Centre for Mobility, in Berlin, who said that in Germany the degree of motorisation of young people dropped by a half between 2000 and 2010.
“The car is no longer an icon of freedom,” Knie commented in a presentation that showed, in some German cities, a strategy developing for a ‘joined-up’ public transport system, where bike and car hire can be coordinated with metro, train and bus links, This provides a better option than having an expensive car that sits in a car park most of the day.
“There is a strong trend to public transport among the young,” while older people perceive car use as giving them pleasure as well as flexibility and independence, Knie observed.
As Knie noted, “traffic is crazy,” in many areas of Germany, with no means for it to grow further. So people need solutions to get from the train station to their homes in the suburbs. Knie pointed out that the e-car described by Prof Neubauer, which is limited to 150-km range without recharging, would do the job.
Knie said people need solutions that match seamlessly, “that’s what will work. ... Right now it is not joined up,” but cooperation among vehicle suppliers, communities, councils, all transport systems, is needed.
Asked if the trend away from car ownership is apparent amongst US youngsters, Knie said “No,” agreeing that the US car sector is a different market altogether.