German carmakers urged to challenge Tesla

BERLINGerman automakers must invest more in electric vehicles (EVs) and take on Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said on Saturday.

Peter Altmaier said he was thoroughly disappointed by German auto executives following the diesel-emissions scandal and that he was also thinking about the future of the 600,000 employees in the industry.

“When is our automobile industry, which is so good, actually going to be in a position to build a car that travels 50km further than a Tesla and costs €10,000 (RM51,000) less?” Altmaier said at a public forum in Berlin on Saturday. “It must be possible to set this as a goal.”

He referred to Tesla cars costing US$100,000 (RM428,000) with a range of 400km (250 miles). Tesla’s Germany website shows a Model X Tesla with a range of as much as 417km selling for €91,250. Tesla has added a more affordable vehicle, the Model 3 sedan, which starts at US$35,000, with initial deliveries inJuly.

“If the automobile industry doesn’t grasp the fact that it has to invest more in EVs, especially in cities, then it will be very hard to defend combustion engines — petrol and diesel — over the long term,” Altmaier said. “We must do all we can now, so that the best electric cars are built in Germany.”

Car buyers have been slow to purchase all-electric models due to concerns about how far the vehicles can travel on a fully charged battery, prices and the time needed to recharge. Merkel conceded in May that Germany won’t meet her goal of having one million electric autos on the country’s roads by 2020.

Among German manufacturers, only BMW AG currently offers an electric auto, the i3, that isn’t based on a combustion-engine car. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand and Volkswagen AG outlined plans a year ago to produce all-new battery-only models by the end of the decade to challenge Tesla. — Bloomberg