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Opinion
Chris Bryant

Germany is Having an Existential Crisis About Cars

With the contradiction between Germans' climate anxiety and their love of huge SUVs, it’s no surprise that carmakers are struggling.

A “new object of hate.”

A “new object of hate.”

Photographer: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP

America’s automakers hit rock bottom in the eyes of the public when their executives went to Washington in 2008 to beg for a bailout — in corporate jets.

Now it’s the German car industry’s turn to suffer an image crisis and, as with General Motors Co. and Chrysler a decade ago, it couldn’t be happening at a less auspicious moment. Amid trade wars and plunging China sales, the number of cars rolling off Germany’s production lines has dropped by 12% this year and exports by 14%. European auto sales fell 3% in the first eight months of 2019.  With demand expected to remain weak for a couple of years, the German parts supplier Continental AG isn’t ruling out cuts to working hours and jobs.