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The Great Pretender - the German car industry

A great article from Germany (in English) on the lack of interest by the German auto industry to build a real electric car like Tesla.

http://www.roederhallo.de/2015/08/20/the-great-pretender/

The write up also references a TV program - in German language only. (Come on Google. When is Google translate available for voice? :wink:)
  • "Das Märchen von der Elektromobilität - Wie Politik und Industry die E-Autos bremsen"
  • "The fairytale of electro mobility - How politics and industry are holding back EVs"
http://www.br.de/mediathek/video/se...ektroautos-elektromobilitaet-e-autos-102.html

You need to click the download button under the video frame and select the streaming format to see the video.
 

NegativeFeedback

New Member
Aug 21, 2015
4
0
EU
The German futurist Lars Thomsen talks about Tesla and the German car industry a lot. He says German car makers are like a frog in water slowly heating up to boiling point. His videos are in German but you can activate subtitles. If you search for Lars Thomsen Tesla, you can find a few long videos on youtube.
 

David99

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jan 31, 2014
4,872
7,217
Brea, Orange County
Typical German journalism. I grew up there. Just watched the TV documentary...

One of the people said Germany was in the very bottom of the list of countries when it comes to EVs. That's just total nonsense. Lots of numbers are compared that are not equalized, lots of statements are torn out of context. While it is true that the German car industry isn't exactly leading the EV market, they are still doing a lot more than the average car maker. The only one fully pushing EVs is Tesla obviously as that is their only product. Tesla sales numbers are peanuts compared the mass market of the ICE cars. It's a very competitive market and no other car manufacturer wants to lose money on that market by pulling too many resources to EVs that are not making any money at this point. From a business point of view it makes total sense that when you make 99% of your income from one market, you won't spend all your efforts on the 1% that isn't making you money.

The documentary actually explains how BMW is making very good and smart efforts. The i3 production facility uses far less energy than a traditional car manufacturing process (using aluminum like Tesla is the worst in terms of energy consumption). It cost less to set up the i3 facility and the result, working with carbon fiber materials, makes the car a lot lighter. Lots of innovative long term thinking.

Anyways, they go on about how ridiculously expensive EVs are and how they use traditional boring design. Of course they only ask that question while talking about the eGolf, not when they show the i3. LOL

Then they point out how Germany is missing out on battery development. Definitely true.

They keep sprinkling on how inadequate EVs are. The whole list. Range anxiety, how inconvenient it is to charge, having to make compromises. Not a German car maker problem. It's a general EV problem that goes across all manufacturers except Tesla.

They say the government isn't doing enough and then a minute later they criticize how the government has given financial help to some manufacturers and charging stations. OK so what is it?

When they talk about the Mercedes SUV (a plug in hybrid) they drive it until the battery is dead, then, when the car has to switch to 100% ICE, they look at the current consumption and say, 'see it's higher than the official numbers, they are cheating'. Of course they don't count the 31 km they drove 100% electric before. If the average daily driving distance is 60 km, then you get half of it from electricity and only half of it gasoline. What they did is totally ignore the electric mileage and only mentioned the ICE consumption. Poor journalism.

They only show people who rented an EV for a few days and interview them as they are struggling instead of actual EV owners.

They criticize that the car industry and the government talk to each other. They seriously think it's bad. Are you kidding me?

I really think it's a poor piece of journalism. Yes I wish the German car industry would do more. Just like I wish all car manufacturers would do more. But looking at who is doing what I don't think you can say the US car industry or the Japanese car industry or the German car industry is generally doing better or worse. There are some good advances, some serious, some just compliance cars. They are across the board. Toyota is dissapointing, Nissan is doing great. Mercedes is slow, BMW is doing much more. GM is doing OK with the Volt, Tesla is the king. I really don't think this documentary is showing much.
 

Spidy

Active Member
Feb 7, 2015
1,365
1,106
EU
You can thank the EU for this. They want lower emission PHEV cars are simply the easiest and most cost efficient way to get there. Not to mention it's much easier to sell than an EV. Especially in Germany with often rather short commutes I could see a lot of people actually drive a significant amount on electricity.

  1. Electric cars are too expensive
  2. Electric cars only drive for less than 200km
  3. Electric cars cannot be charged anywhere
To a huge extent they still are too expensive. A big factor for the current sales are government initiatives. Also charging duration is seen as much bigger issue than location.
By the way, 50% of the public drives less than 10km to work roundtrip
Funny how he then goes on and complains about hybrids...
I’m sorry to disclose this, but it’s not all green grass, blue skies and clean air everywhere. It is even harder to believe, if you look at the facts of VWs unit sales across the world. China is the biggest market with 35% of all sales. Ever been to a chinese city? Man, all of them host millions and you are lucky to see the sky once a day.
Obviously this means the Chinese EV market is booming. Oh wait it isn't at all. It's the market where Tesla struggles the most... sorry but car manufacturers don't care about that unless it actually translates into sales.
God damn it, I want everyone to see, that I’m a treehugger. A little blue „e“ on the back of my Golf doesn’t do it
Except that one of the biggest complains was that people wanted "normal" cars. The main reason people see it with the Tesla, is because the brand stands itself stands for EVs.
After best ratings in crash tests, customer satisfaction, awards after awards and higher sales figures in California than A8, 7 series and S class combined, laughter lapsed into silence.
Is still don't think those cars play in the same market segment. Tesla isn't a car aimed at managers with a chauffeur and executive rear seat. Same car type + similar price ≠ same customers
Norway and California state are openly discussing to ban combustion engines by 2025/ 2030.
Sign the law and manufacturers will build cars because now there is a market. But just "openly discussing" isn't going to do anything...
The biggest challenge for electric transportation is more charging stations. I still cannot believe, that a small start up from California installs thousands of chargers across the globe, while Europe agreed on a common plug last year. Now I can hear Elon Musk and his team rolling on the floor laughing.
You mean that Elon Musk that just send out a letter regaring the use of Superchargers?
Oh, talking about strange: Tesla has opened up their patents for everyone to use.
Yeah, as long as you agree no never dispute any patent with Tesla. Why would any big car manufacturers ever agree to that?
While google and Uber run pilots with (self driving) vehicles
Yeah, not that there is a self-driving Mercedes S-Class test car driving around...
If Apple really will sell cars, one of the big three in Germany will shrink to basically non-existant
Or maybe it turns out to be Apple's worst decision ever.
 

Olle

Member
Jul 17, 2013
814
422
Orlando, FL
Typical German journalism. I grew up there. Just watched the TV documentary...

From a business point of view it makes total sense that when you make 99% of your income from one market, you won't spend all your efforts on the 1% that isn't making you money.

I disagree. This exact situation is the problem. If they instead of thinking of EVs as a separate 1% market and putting their B team on it with limited resources, they could phase out Fossil and phase in Electric as their mainstream models. Typically enough, the new Audi Tesla killer is designed to be inferior to Audi's premier offerings, the Q7 and the A8. A lot of customers don't care about mode of propulsion as long as the car performs on par or better with comparable offerings, as Tesla has demonstrated.

[/QUOTE]They only show people who rented an EV for a few days and interview them as they are struggling instead of actual EV owners. [/QUOTE] Agreed!
 

Canuck

Well-Known Member
Nov 30, 2013
6,125
5,777
South Surrey, BC
From a business point of view it makes total sense that when you make 99% of your income from one market, you won't spend all your efforts on the 1% that isn't making you money.

No it does not.

That's what Blockbuster said about video streaming. They continued to focus on rentals since it made them 99% of their income. It was like holding the door wide open for the unknown Netflix (analogy: Tesla). Now they are trying to compete with Netflix when it comes to video streaming but it should be the other way around.

From a business point of view you must keep an very wide eye on the changing market.
 

3mp_kwh

Active Member
Feb 13, 2013
1,127
324
Boston
I'd go with "frog in pot". It isn't even about money, yet. I think a long-standing fascination with intricate mechanical precision is cultural. More=better. There doesn't yet exist the will, or the wisdom, to divorce themselves from it.
 

Uncle Paul

Well-Known Member
Nov 1, 2013
6,299
7,613
Canyon Lake,CA
German auto manufacturers are huge corporations that are set up to make most of their money of very high production runs.

It just may be that they are developing electric car technology at a reasonable rate, and that when electric cars become more mainstream they will begin to crank them out by the hundreds of thousands.

Just as Tesla began to dabble in the marketplace by electrifying a Lotus, then began to slowly build expertise by rolling out the Model S. They might have perfect timing when they release the model 3, and these two cars will have paved the way.

More important than manufacturing their initial cars, was the successful roll out of so many SuperCharger stations. This should end up being a tremendous competitive advantage for their electric cars going forward.

Mercedes could also be a player in this charging on the go offering by simply putting charging stations at many of their existing dealership locations.

Believe there will be many solutions to addressing electric vehicle range.
 

adiggs

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Sep 25, 2012
5,257
17,544
Portland, OR
...

Mercedes could also be a player in this charging on the go offering by simply putting charging stations at many of their existing dealership locations....

One observation about this general view / approach to building a charging location - I claim that it sounds easy and seductive on the surface, but it leads to a surprisingly non-functional solution in practice. Have you attempted to make use of a dealership cited charging location? Some of them are marvelous. But some of them are reluctant at best to provide the space for the charger, much less have somebody using their dealership space and resources. And that's when the business is open - many have fences they lock up at night, removing access to the charger when some road trippers will most need the charger (I remember plugging in about midnight at a charger in a town in N. California / S. Oregon on my road trip - good thing it was in a downtown city parking lot that was available 24x7).

And dealerships are frequently not located immediately off of the major through highways that are particularly valuable to a traveler that is going through.


tl:dr - if Mercedes or anybody else attempts to compete with Tesla's Supercharger Network by relying on their dealerships to provide real estate, then they best upside they can aim for is a poor second cousin. They'll have something that might sound good on paper, but it won't actually have much utility.
 

ggr

Expert in Dunning-Kruger Effect!
Moderator
Mar 24, 2011
7,059
28,994
San Diego, CA
It's probably obvious to most of you, but it just occurred to me, that most of the German engineering and expertise is in their engines. Sure they also do great fit and finish and handling and stuff, but so do other people and much of that is outsourced. It's the engines that they work hard on and keep completely in house. So of course they don't really want to embrace BEV; where's their added value going to come from? Equally of course, they have to SAY they are heading that way or they are increasingly irrelevant.
 

wws

Active Member
Aug 11, 2014
1,130
1,395
Northern California
It's probably obvious to most of you, but it just occurred to me, that most of the German engineering and expertise is in their engines. Sure they also do great fit and finish and handling and stuff, but so do other people and much of that is outsourced. It's the engines that they work hard on and keep completely in house. So of course they don't really want to embrace BEV; where's their added value going to come from? Equally of course, they have to SAY they are heading that way or they are increasingly irrelevant.

If you watch one of the youtube videos of Marc Tarpenning talking about the creation of Tesla, he says the same. There has been a huge amount of outsourcing over the years - which Tesla was able to take advantage of. But the one thing automakers kept internal was their ICE engine development.

WRT high speed chargers at dealerships - they are a stopgap measure at best. Who really wants to cool their heels at random dealerships waiting for their cars to charge? (Granted our local MB dealership has the nicest customer waiting area I've ever seen...)
 
A very good discussion. It has probably been discussed elsewhere, but it is extremely difficult for an incumbent to change direction in a major way, such as an ICE car company suddenly switching to BEVs. It has not happened. Is not going to happen. Almost cannot happen. The Innovator's Dilemma by Clay Christensen really tells the story well.
When you analyze the many successes Apple has had in disrupting and disintermediating established markets, the dominant element of their success is simple: Apple could count on incumbents not being able to change course quickly enough to save themselves. Tesla is doing the same thing. I love the giddy comment that Musk made a few months ago during an interview, something like, "I can't believe they are giving us this much of a head start!!" They are...and Tesla is not going to let any grass grow to take advantage of the incumbents' inability to change.
To the question as to what Apple will do with their cash hoard: I hope they seek a position in automobiles...and I hope they pick Tesla's charging standard...then help build out the charging network. Apple's cash could put charging everywhere in just a few years.
Very exciting times. As a guy who started as a supplier to the US automotive industry in the 1960s, stepping into a fully-charged Tesla each morning is a wonderful, compelling feeling. Go Tesla!

- - - Updated - - -

You are exactly correct...but it is very hard for successful incumbent organizations to make such changes.

One thing in favor of the getting the German car industry moving to BEVs is that their sales & marketing groups are all feeling the pressure of Tesla and are no doubt screaming loudly to management. In fact, I saw a comment that any time Tesla sells a car, the sales guys at Audi, Mercedes, Porsche and BMW each believe that they lost a sale! The impact of Tesla's success is out of proportion to the reality.
 

SR22pilot

Member
Jun 16, 2014
720
1,126
Georgia
My fantasy is that Google and Apple realize that Tesla is not the enemy but a resource. Years ago Sun Microsystems realized that WinTel was the enemy. They offered their Solaris operating system for free complete with the OpenLook UI which was pretty good. Lotus developed 123 for Solaris so there was a good spreadsheet and Wordperfect put their word processor on Solaris. Then people got scared. They saw Sun as the enemy. IBM backed out as did HP and others. The result was lack of critical mass and Lotus and Wordperfect ended support. People failed to realize that WinTel was the enemy. In cars the enemy is GM, Ford, Mercedes, BMW, etc. Even at 500,000 cars per year Tesla will be 0.5% of the market. Tesla isn't the enemy. Imagine if Apple and Google backed Tesla on Superchargers. An extra billion dollars would allow huge buildout and total dominance. You could label them TAG chargers for Tesla-Apple-Google. GM et. al. wouldn't be able to compete. I can imagine a day when kids asked to name three big car companies reply "Tesl, Apple, Google." How many tube manufacturers made the crossover to transistors and then integrated circuits? Only Motorola comes to mind and they are a shell of their former selves. RCA is nowhere nor is Sylvania.
 

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