Clean Cars Made in Germany: Latest From German Car ManufacturersBy Cuong Huynh • May 22nd, 2009 • Category: Clean Car Talk Posts, Mercedes-benz
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles peeking into clean car industries and car manufacturers of China, India, South Korea and Germany. Please send comments and suggestions using our Contact page or by leaving a comment at the end of this article.
Germany’s automobile industry is an important industry in the country. It currently offers almost a million jobs to the German working population. In fact, Germany’s industry dominates over 29% of the production of passenger cars in Europe. It is the source of several iconic automobile brands and various highly notable car models. The industry suffered a temporary downfall back in 1930, during the time of the Great Depression.
The momentary fall of the industry proved to be somewhat positive as it weeded out the weaker car companies in the country. At the end, around only twelve car companies survived, including Daimler-Benz, Ford, Opel, Audi, among some others. These companies made the German car industry flourish, and several of the world’s greatest automobiles were born.
Fast forward to the present, and the German car industry is booming. Enjoying worldwide popularity thanks to the exceptional models and performance of the top German car brands, the industry is responsible for the creation of some of the most notable cars in history. Now, six companies dominate the German automobile industry.
These companies include Audi, Daimler AG, BMW, Porsche, and Opel. Volkswagen, one of the largest automotive companies in the world, is part of the list. Opel, though owned by General Motors, is originally a German company and still focuses its operations on the German car industry. Now, what used to be just 900 cars built in 1901 has elevated to a total number of about six million cars produced annually in recent years. The German brands have also taken over worldwide markets, producing more than half of the total number of cars manufactured in other countries. Running alongside two other car industry giants Japan and United States, the automobile industry of Germany is enjoying its peak.
World-Class Cars, Not Yet on the Hybrid Bandwagon
Germany is also well-known for world-class luxury cars such as sleek and shiny Audi cars, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, bearing the familiar globally-popular insignia of the brands. In recent years, German’s exports suffered a decline due to the economic crisis. Aside from that, times are changing, and consumers are now paying more attention to developments regarding fuel-efficient and clean cars. The sales of German cars have been predicted to fall, but German car manufacturers are countering the trend by releasing new models and accelerating their production of clean cars such as hybrid cars and electric cars.
The German car manufacturers were not big fans of hybrid cars, despite some hybrid cars they have revealed at car shows in recent years. Most German car companies recognized at first that hybrids will not match up to the quality of diesel and next-generation gasoline vehicles. Instead of plunging head first into the trend of hybrid cars, German car manufacturers analyzed not just production costs and prices but also the overall expense of building and operating a car with a full hybrid system. The companies considered that despite the high improvements in fuel emissions, full hybrid cars cost around 18 times for every 3% to 5% increase in fuel efficiency. With this in mind, German car makers are taking the hybrid power train one step at a time.
Advanced Concepts Already in Work
This, however, did not keep the German manufacturers from toying with concept cars such as the 70-mpg full hybrid Golf from Volkswagen, a diesel-electric model. BMW also has not yet released any hybrids for real, though the company has also looked into the concept and has developed a sample gas-electric hybrid edition of the existing X6 SUV.
Porsche, however, takes on a different view. Despite its knowledge of the consequences of using hybrids, the company hopes to maintain its dominance in the industry in case the industry swerves to the hybrid course. Thus, the company hopes that if it goes ahead in the release of hybrid cars, they will do so in quality. The company currently maintains a power train development project for two hybrid concept cars, the Panamera Hybrid and the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid.
Mercedes-Benz, however, had other plans in mind. They are also active in the development of eco-friendly vehicles, but seem to be taking things one step at a time. The company uses a unique modular design for their new vehicles so that hybrid systems can be easily applied at later time. On the side, studies and developments on hybrid cars continue. In fact, Mercedes-Benz has a hybrid set for release in the near future, the S400 BlueHYBRID. Mercedes-Benz is showing strong eagerness for the move to the hybrid cars. Here’s a peak under the hood of the S400 BlueHYBRID (courtesy emercedesbenz.com.)
The S 400 HYBRID is the first passenger car model with hybrid drive to be introduced by Mercedes-Benz. Its combination of a further developed V6 petrol engine and a compact hybrid module makes the S 400 HYBRID the world’s most efficient luxury saloon with a petrol engine. In the New European Driving Cycle, the combined fuel consumption is only 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres. This produces the world’s lowest CO2 emissions in this vehicle and output class – just 186 grams per kilometre.
These exemplary figures go hand in hand with outstanding performance potential: the 3.5-litre petrol engine develops 205 kW/279 hp, while the electric motor adds another 15 kW/20 hp and a starting torque of 160 Nm. The combined output is therefore 220 kW/299 hp, with a combined maximum torque of 385 newton metres. Moreover, the new S 400 HYBRID is the first series-production model to be equipped with a particularly powerful lithium-ion battery specifically designed for automotive use. This is another pioneering step by Mercedes-Benz towards the electrification of the automobile.
Although at first glance, it seems that the German car industry is falling behind of other automakers, such as Japan’s, which has already released the iconic Toyota Prius, the saying “better sure than sorry” seems to apply to Germany’s case. The entire industry seems to be taking precautions but at the same time, actively pursuing hybrid technologies. So whatever direction the automobile industry goes, the German car manufacturers will surely still come out as strong contenders.
The German Diesels
Despite the hesitations to release full hybrid cars, the German car manufacturers saw fit to improve the fuel efficiency of their existing car offers. Volkswagen has introduced its Blue Motion line, a line of cars with ultra low emission and improved efficiency. The cars include the Polo, Passat, Estate wagon and Golf, with more to be announced. The VW Golf was actually named “2009 World Car of the Year” at the recent New York International Auto Show. The Golf features a 1.6L diesel engine with impressive rated mileage of 70 miles per gallon. It emits just 99 grams of CO2 with every kilometer traveled, which beats the specifications of the 2009 Prius hybrid car (104 g/km of CO2). The company has also entered into a collaborative project with Porsche for the production of eco-friendly cars. And don’t forget the 2009 Jetta TDI diesel, which is rated at 41 mpg but is already racking up praises from fans who have exceeded 50 mpg.
VW Gold BlueMotion Diesel Car
VW Jetta TDI Diesel Car
When Toyota and Honda both came out with hybrid cars, the world’s attention was captured. With the release came the speculations that it would only be a matter of time for the other automobile industry giants to follow suit. However, many years after the Toyota Prius was released, people were still waiting for the German hybrids. The first impression was that the German giants were lagging behind, but with new offers in the market from these German giants such as the VW Jetta Wagon and the E320 from Mercedes-Benz that offer excellent mileage and impressive fuel efficiency on diesel, German car manufacturers seemed to say to the world that the costly full hybrid cars are not necessary the best or only solution for the environment.
Taking German Hybrids to Market
Today, while the German car manufacturers are indeed looking more closely into hybrid cars, they are not racing ahead like Chinese and Japanese car manufacturers. Given the careful planning and meticulous studies that the German car makers put into the direction they want to take the industry towards, when the time comes for the hybrids to take over, German car makers such as VW, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and many others will be expected to play the game competitively.
Three hybrid cars are lined up for release from German manufacturers, though the release dates are still fuzzy as of press time. The cars are the Audi Q7, the Porsche Cayenne, and the VW Touareg. All cars are still in the development stage and it will be several more years before completion. With reputation and brand name at risk, the German car manufacturers are surely developing ways to ensure their hybrid cars as high in quality as possible. Some companies, such as Daimler as well as BMW have also entered into agreements with companies from Japan and the United States. Even BMW and Mercedes-Benz, two rivals, are now collaborating on concepts for the future hybrid car.
Euro 6 emission standards set for implementation in 2015 will be produce interesting clean cars, including hybrids, coming out of Germany. With quality, performance and reputation on the line, top German car brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Porsche, Daimler AG, and VW will come to market with full force in due time. The bottom line: the German hybrids will certainly be worth the wait.
Cuong Huynh is a marketing communications consultant working in the San Diego area. Cuong is dedicated to helping individuals and companies maximize their presence on the Internet and efficiently take products and services to market through SEO and network marketing. Cuong also maintains a blog on Marketing at marketingautopsyblog.com. You can also find Cuong Huynh's profile on LinkedIn. For fun he maintains a blog on Vietnamese pho, soccer and do storyboards for movie and film projects. Follow Cuong on Twitter @CuongHuynh, @LovingPho, @CleanCarTalk, @BlockbusterFilm, @SoccerUSA.
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