Together in Electric Dreams: Always in the lead, always levelheaded

By Žikica Milošević

Germany could well be synonymous with cars. Although Ford’s Model T was the first mass-marketed car in history, all of Europe (continental Europe, that is) drives on the right side of the road because of the Germans. The Germans invented motorways as well, and today they are synonymous with good cars despite the growing competition.


Still, it’s hard to imagine a more balanced state where railroads are so fast, the railway grid so strong and Länder-Ticket and Wochenende-Ticket so focused on motivating entire families to take train trips. This is a country where the emphasis on collective transport is so strong, yet there are so many individual drivers. Also, almost 900,000 work in the German automotive industry.

Being the home of the modern car, the German automotive industry is considered the most competitive and innovative in the world, has the third-largest car production in the world, and the fourth-largest total motor vehicle production. With an annual production of close to six million units and a 31.5% share of the European market (in 2017), German cars have won the European Car of the Year, International Car of the Year and Annual World Car of the Year awards more than any other country in the world. Volkswagen’s Beetle and Porsche 911 finished fourth and fifth respectively in the Car of the Century Award. Let’s not talk about their iconic status…

VW-Werk, Wolfsburg


Car pioneers Carl Benz (who launched Mercedes-Benz) and Nikolaus Otto developed four-stroke internal combustion engines in the late 1870s. In 1887, Benz adapted its design to cars in 1887, leading to the birth of a modern automotive engine. A series of companies were incorporated in Germany – Opel, BMW, Daimler-Benz. The 1930s Opel Olympia became one of the iconic cars in the history of cars, and the first Autobahn (available in every country today) was completed in 1935. An entire city – Wolfsburg – was built because of the Beetle, and the car itself will become a symbol of the 1960s and Great Britain (paradoxically) and will be named after it the country’s most famous pop group of all time. Two cheap cars of low quality but also having an iconic status were made in East Germany – Trabant and Wartburg, while the West took the lead in the world. Saying “German quality” and “German car” was like signing a blank cheque of trust when purchasing a car.

In the 1990s, Germany came under the public scrutiny in a new, transitional age of the world economy – the UK and France began to change, and Germany did not. They laughed at German conservatism because the Germans did not outsource production elsewhere. The others were expensive but of good quality. And the others also failed… The Germans remained on top, extending their automotive business to South America and Eastern Europe.


We should not fear for the German automotive industry. Or maybe we should? While these rules of engagement were in place, Germany was the undisputed leader. But with new environmental requirements and a new generation, fiercely led by Greta Thurnberg, electric or hydrogen cars will be required. There are fears that other countries will take over the primacy of the inert German industry. Critics point out that certain German automotive companies have already been dishonest about toxic emissions and that the EU is on the verge of adopting new and stricter laws. China is causing a new revolution in this segment, and the German green parties are tougher than their European counterparts. A lack of timely investment in innovation can backfire, and it is about time for the German car industry to start innovating first. As DW says, Germany should start dreaming its “electric dream”. Germany was always first, throughout history. It’s not a German thing to rest on laurels, but like David Bowie, Germany should change its style before others come to change it, and once again take a lead (or rather, stay in the lead) while others are sleeping.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *