Tesla must be challenged, Angela Merkel’s aide tells German car makers

by
James Regan

German car makers must invest more in electric vehicles and take on Elon Musk’s Tesla, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff says.

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 50 kilometres further than a Tesla and costs €10,000 less?” Altmaier said at a public forum in Berlin on Saturday. “It must be possible to set this as a goal.”

Tesla’s Germany website shows a Model X Tesla with a range of as much as 417km selling for €91,250 ($137,095). Tesla has added a more affordable vehicle, the Model 3 sedan, which starts at $44,100, with initial deliveries in July.

“If the automobile industry doesn’t grasp the fact that it has to invest more in electric vehicles, especially in cities, then it will be very hard to defend combustion engines – gasoline 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.”

In the wake of Volkswagen AG’s emissions cheating, the future of diesel cars is a campaign issue in Germany’s national election on September 24. Merkel and her main opponent, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, have criticised auto executives for jeopardising the industry’s future, while saying they want to avoid driving bans that courts are considering in response to pollution complaints.

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