Sep 10 2008

The threatened German car industry – revisited

Published by at 2:45 pm under Europe,Opinion

First published on my old blog on 24/2/2007. 

I’m cracking the bottle of Shiraz from South Africa I just bought – even though it’s in the middle of the day. Why? Because I’m feeling good about the last two articles I wrote (see my posts on the German car industry and the best magazine in the world – The Economist).

The Economist is manned by what I would call “quasi-armchair economists”. The magazine is full of observations, but of the type which is backed by (a whole lot of) analytical, empirical and academic substance. Theirs are not the pure “sit-back-and-feel-your-gut” type of observations I make. 

I subscribe to this magazine (of course). Have been since 1987, when it could be had for R5 per copy in South Africa. Now it costs R35,00 per copy back there. (But that just by the way.)

The latest edition just landed in my mailbox and….what’s on the cover? A story about how the German car industry is getting it wrong. And notably, how it is failing to notice that people are getting more and more uncomfortable about driving “big, dirty, environment-unfriendly cars” (which Germany mostly produce). 

In short, it’s about the German car industry missing the boat for the next era of cars – let’s call it “Car2″ (Why not? If there can be a Web2…)

So, I was spot-on with my observation. I even beat The Economist to it by 4 weeks. 

Now, my experience (another observation) here in Germany is, that the best local weekly business magazine is WirtschaftsWoche (not only because it’s HQ is 300 meters away from my front door). And it usually follows The Economist on “major trend articles” like these with a lag of 2 to 3 weeks.  

So, there we have something to be on the look-out for again: Three weeks from now the whole German media industry should be focused on one theme: What Germany’s car industry should do to catch up and retain its dominance in the Car2 era?

I hope to be right again….this Shiraz is tasting “fokken lekker”.

And for those who don’t understand what all the fuss is about: If you’re a slightly older music-lover, you’ll remember how quickly the world discarded LPs when a better technology came around (casettes). And again when CDs came around. Within one year no-one in the world even thought about buying anything else than casettes, or later CDs. 

Now, the world has been waiting for a “clean car” for a while, to put it mildly. Some might even be getting a bit edgy, seeing that there was almost no snow in Europe this winter….

My guess is: When the new technology car comes around, you’ll see people swopping their old, smokin’ gallopies for Car2 era vehicles faster than you can say “Shiraz is super”. 

And no-one will care when these cars are not made in Germany….

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