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Mobility Transition – The German Automotive Industry in Upheaval

On behalf of the think tank Denkwerk Demokratie, IÖW has examined the conditions for a mobility transition as well as its implications for the German automotive industry. Denkwerk Demokratie is financed by trade unions and the political parties Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and SPD.

The current transport system is primarily structured around the private automobile. Consequences of this focus include climate change, local pollution, an enormous need for physical infrastructure and thousands of deaths each year, to name but a few. Despite these problems, that have been discussed in social-ecological research for decades, the transport system has so far proved stable. However, structures have been broken up recently and far-reaching changes in our mobility are expected.

The project identified and examined main drivers of transformation in the mobility sector: Political climate targets, ongoing digitalization and the emergence of self-driving cars. The researchers show that a shift towards electric mobility and the implementation of digitally based mobility services must be embedded in a comprehensive mobility change. Mobility needs must be reduced. Foot, bicycle and shared traffic must be strengthened. This is the only way to ensure that the transformations of propulsion and energy systems are compatible, as otherwise the transport sector's high energy requirements cannot be covered by green sources.

Electro-mobility and digital mobility services are affecting corporate value chains and competence requirements. This is a challenge for the German automotive industry, which specializes in combustion engines. In the medium term, a realignment will lead to job losses, but it is necessary in order to secure long-term manufacturing capacity and employment in Germany. The task of politics is to create a framework for both a successful structural change in industry and a successful change of the mobility system.

More information about the study “Mobility Transition – The German Automotive Industry in Upheaval” (German language only)

IÖW Project Team

  • Christian Uhle