Peter Altmaier, chief of staff to Chancellor Angela Merkel, challenged German carmakers to prove their country remains a leader in the auto industry by beating Tesla Motors Inc. in the electric-car market.
“I know Elon Musk, I met him last year, he’s an impressive guy and his Tesla car is an impressive car,” Altmaier said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Berlin. “I would be very pleased if the German carmakers would be able to produce an e-car that’s better and cheaper than Elon Musk’s car.”
Germany is trying to shore up up its reputation in the auto industry after Volkswagen AG admitted rigging emission-test results on some of its diesel engines. The revelation cost the company 20 billion euros ($22.4 billion) in market value and prompted Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn to step down.
“We have to make sure that the brand is not damaged,” Altmaier said, referring to the whole German auto industry. The government is “working hard to contain the damage.”
Volkswagen’s Porsche unit this month unveiled a four-seater electric sports car at the Frankfurt International Auto Show that may challenge Tesla. The Mission E accelerates faster than a 911, charges in just 15 minutes and is due to reach the market in five years.
The car will be “better than a Tesla,” Matthias Mueller, the former Porsche chief, said at the event. Mueller took over as head of Volkswagen after Winterkorn’s resignation.
Altmaier said automakers should use the challenge of reducing emissions to spur innovation. He said he also thinks diesel cars still have advantages and he could imagine himself buying a Volkswagen but the company has to clarify every single aspect of what went wrong.
“The automobile industry has to adapt to the environmental challenge that we are facing all around the globe and I’m optimistic that this crisis, this issue, can help us to promote even more environmentally-friendly technologies,” he said.