Taking a decision in the European Union is always very long. And when it comes to rocking an entire industry that employs 12.6 million people across the old continent according to ACEA, the association of European automobile manufacturers, we take many precautions and we look two times.
This is the case with the ban on the production of thermal cars scheduled for 2035. An important step was taken at the beginning of this month when the deputies of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety approved the text by a narrow majority (44 votes for and 40 against).
Since then, the different countries of the Union have been agitating behind the scenes before the final vote on the project by the European deputies who must meet in a month to vote for, or against, the famous ban. We could therefore fear, or rejoice, the obstruction of the main country concerned by this future directive, namely Germany.
Germany swings in favor of the swing
However, since yesterday, it would seem that the government of Olaf Sholz approves the shift requested by Brussels. The NGO Transports & environnement brought together its traditional “European car climate summit” this Wednesday which brought together the decision-makers of the main car-producing countries across the Union, whether they are manufacturers or political leaders.
At the end of this rout, each country spoke and the choice of the first of them, Germany, seems clear: Berlin approves the measure and with it Italy and Spain. Obviously, three countries out of 27 do not constitute a majority. But the weight of German industry is considerable in the field and may well influence the vote of many others in their direction.
This is because the Germany of the automobile weighs four times more than France. It employs more than 800,000 people across the Rhine and produced 3.5 million cars in 2020, compared to less than a million here. This heavyweight is also the Union’s leading market for car sales, and the fourth producing country in the world, after China, the United States and Japan. Suffice to say that his voice counts a little more than that of the others and could well win the support of several countries, especially those in the East where German manufacturers have production units.
But why does Germany adhere to this project, undoubtedly the most important in all of its automotive history? Quite simply because its industry did not wait for the directive from Brussels to begin its conversion. 150 billion euros have already been invested in this transition, and the addition is not yet finalized. As a result, no one, from Mercedes to BMW via the Volkswagen group, wants to lose their stake and the Berlin government has understood this well.
There remains the case of France. If the weight of the automobile is less important there than across the Rhine, it remains essential. But Paris should also approve the text. If he did not do so yesterday, it is quite simply because the government has not yet been formed. There is no doubt, however, that the appointment of Elizabeth Borne to Matignon and the clear directives that the Elysée has entrusted to her in terms of the environment can only push France to adopt the text.
Admittedly, Carlos Tavares, boss of Stellantis says he is skeptical about the announced changeover and does not hesitate to say so. But he should not oppose Italy’s clear choice yesterday in favor of the measure, because it is difficult for him to go against the decision of the country from which he has just included the main car brands in his group. As it will be difficult for him to oppose the choice of Matignon who should decide quickly.
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