Interview Fritz Indra

Formula 1 Expert Fritz Indra: The Automotive Sector is Under Pressure.

The automotive sector is under pressure. Aside from all internal trouble a considerable part of the pressure in the industry is caused by legislation, Fritz Indra says. All car manufacturers are currently pushing electrification, which may also be a strategy to take the bull by the horns. But in the opinion of the Austrian engine designer and Formula 1 expert, the current trend towards the electric car should be regarded in a more critical way than it currently is the case. Especially with regard to climate protection, he says, because electric cars aren’t as clean as they are expected to be.

Fritz Indra: There’s controversy in the auto industry in the sense that I don’t get why the whole industry is developing so many electric vehicles now. VW are talking about a million in a few years. Yet they’re not selling at all, there are no customers today. Sales are dropping in America, falling fast in Norway and steady in Germany. All the subsidies aren’t helping. So why are all the companies developing such huge numbers of electric cars? Where are the customers supposed to come from? I don’t see why customers would buy something that’s worse than what they already have. And until electric cars have one or two big advantages over the cars they currently own, they won’t buy one. Also, 80 percent of cars are now bought by local authorities, not private customers. The police in Stuttgart, I believe, now have to drive electric cars to massage the statistics a bit.

CTI: You know the industry really well and you talk to many experts backstage too. Do you get the impression people are saying one thing on Germany’s stages – at symposia and congresses – and another in the development teams and factories?

Indra: Yes, I’ve had long discussions about that with very important people in the industry. The German auto industry has adopted a proactive strategy for electric mobility so the government can’t accuse them of not really wanting to do anything. And then you get Daimler’s Franz Weber, for example, or other people in the industry saying it’s no good anyway, nobody will buy it, the range is too low, it’s too expensive, and when the battery pack gets old the car has no resale value. He actually said that. That’s not how you persuade politicians; you have to make them feel the German auto industry is pulling out all the stops to achieve electric mobility … then find out that nobody is buying. And then, hopefully, the subject will be off the agenda. Or let’s say sales will drop to a very low percentage because it’s unlikely that electric cars will ever really be better than the cars customers already have. Not in terms of costs, range or recycling. Nobody is talking about the fact that electric cars contribute nothing at all to climate protection. Not when you do the math correctly.