By on September 17, 2019

Thousands of people amassed in Germany over the weekend to protest the automotive industry. Ground Zero was in Frankfurt, with an estimated 15,000-25,000 people marching past the Frankfurt Motor Show holding signs condemning the internal combustion motor and promoting environmental awareness. Dozens of people also made it onto the trade show to demand the event be shut down or reformatted to focus entirely on eco-friendly transportation.

Sport-utility vehicles and crossovers were also a focal point of activist ire. Many called for their banishment from German cities after four pedestrians, including a three-year-old boy, were fatally struck by a Porsche Macan earlier this month in Berlin. However, the segment’s slightly higher dependance upon fuel was also a sore spot for many activists.

“Such tank-like cars do not belong in cities,” Stephan von Dassel, Green politician, bicycle enthusiast, and mayor of Berlin’s Mitte district, tweeted in German. “They are ‘climate killers’, even without accidents, every driving error becomes a life-threatening danger for innocent people.” 

Thanks to its highly publicized emissions scandal, Volkswagen has found itself a repeat target for activists. In Frankfurt, many were able to get inside the show to keep that tradition alive — resulting in people climbing atop vehicles in the VW booth to chant environmental slogans and hoist protest signs. BMW received similar attention. The main stage was also stormed by activists carrying anti-automobile banners when German chancellor Angela Merkel opened the trade show to the public.

Most protestors were simply demanding a “climate-friendly transport revolution” and a ban on sport-utility vehicles — measures that have become more popular in recent years.

“German car companies invested more money in advertising for SUVs than in all other car segments combined,” Benjamin Stephan, who works on transportation issues for Greenpeace, told the Los Angeles Times. “They’re fueling the rising demand for SUVs with these ads and doing everything they can to get people to buy these big cars because of the fat profit margins”

“We’re in the middle of a climate crisis, and the car industry just doesn’t get it,” he continued. “They’re here celebrating their gas guzzlers instead of looking for ways to get away from combustion engines.”

Greenpeace also released a statement prior to the protests, condemning manufacturers for continuing to sell so many vehicles that burn gasoline or diesel fuel. It also faulted Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW for producing a combined global carbon footprint of 878 million tons of C02 in 2018, a figure it said exceeded the overall emissions of Germany within the same timeframe.

We’ve repeatedly noted that shopping your way out of an environmental issue creates a myriad of new problems. Major changes often have unintended consequences and shifting toward EVs overnight while banning internal combustion vehicles  (even in select areas) would temporarily upend the economy and require a massive expenditure of energy, converting otherwise functional automobiles into scrap. But the automotive industry is also guilty of pushing for higher-margin vehicles and promoting SUV/CUVs like mad — vehicles that, averaged out, are not as energy efficient as a less weighty car — and can be faulted for trying to circumvent regulatory mandates in the past.

As you might expect, people hold opposing viewpoints on the issue.

“It’s a really stupid idea to ban SUVs from the cities,” Razak el Beja, a naturalized German and VW Tourag owner who moved from Tunisia 50 years ago to work as a car mechanic, told the LA Times. “The environment is already a mess. What’s the point of stopping SUVs from coming into the city when you have delivery trucks and 18-wheelers everywhere as well?”

According to the outlet, he was one of the few SUV drivers openly willing to speak to the press.

Bernhard Mattes, the outgoing head of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, announced his resignation as protestors began to descend on Frankfurt. On Thursday, he also suggested that automotive trade shows may no longer be able to exist if automakers continue to bow out of trade shows and environmental activists continue requesting an eco-friendly shift.

“We have made several changes already,” he said. “It’s not about how many cars, how many visitors, how many square [meters]. First we have to agree on a fresh concept, then decide [where] to display this best.”

Interestingly, not every group was there to press for EVs. Activist group Sand in the Gearbox claims that all cars are archaic forms of transportation, including electrics. It was present in Frankfurt to encourage people to abandon automobiles entirely. “Electric cars are far less ecological than the car industry is assuming,” group organizer Tina Velo told the Financial Times.

“What they present here is not the model of the future,” she continued. “All the innovations are coming now from California, China, they are much more advanced, and the German car industry is coming way too late.”

In truth, Germany is likely on the cutting edge of car technology. FT reported that the German Economic Institute in Cologne recently published analysis proving that the country’s automotive industry filed almost half of all patents in the last year, up from about 30 per cent a decade earlier. Meanwhile, innovations from Germany’s other industrial sectors have dropped significantly.

[Images: eugeniusro/Shutterstock]

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52 Comments on “A Lot of People Were Protesting Cars in Germany Over the Weekend, but SUVs Received Special Attention...”

  • avatar

    What a bunch of morons. They should move into central Russia and live out their technology free lives without bothering the rest of the world.

    I’m sure they all practice what they preach and buy 100% of their products from locally sourced options. I’m sure China doesn’t supply any of their shoes or phones.

  • avatar

    Sigh….just shameless.

  • avatar

    The wheel and CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards used in the States, kill more humans than “anthropogenic climate change” ever will. They just do

    • 0 avatar

      That statement is just as stupid as the activists in the story. Links please…if making vehicles lighter for better mileage is what your eluding to, perhaps you ought to do some research and you will find that overall vehicle weights have been on an upward spiral since the 80s….A BMW M3 has gained over a thousand pounds since the E30…and that is the trend, not the exception.

    • 0 avatar

      Real sluggo is correct.

      vladivostok ice core study

      • 0 avatar

        BS. Your claim is moronic.
        I agree with the protesters. These manufacturer can come out with 700hp or more cars that meet emission standards. Why can’t they come out with something that’s really needed. like an SUV (I’m talking a real SUV, not a hatchback) that gets 30mpg or more?

  • avatar

    Fortunately for us ICE lovers, these protesters are a minority worldwide.

    None of my German blood-relatives, or those of my wife, living in Germany drive anything but ICE vehicles to include M-B, BMW, Audi and VW, with an occasional old American pickup truck thrown in, bought from an American GI who returned to the States years ago.

    The EV industry/sales is negligible, a blip on the global SAAR landscape. These protesters are a minority, even in Germany.

    Should I be willing to commit to buying a Rivian pickup truck at some point in the future, it will be only ONE of several other vehicles I will have in my stable, and the only EV of the lot.

    Me buying a Rivian pickup truck would be more for show than for long-distance go. More like a local-area toy than anything else.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “…were fatally struck by a Porsche Macan…”

    I hate when SUVs attack people all on their own. Obviously, we need stronger SUV control.

    “We’re in the middle of a climate crisis…”

    Evidence please?

    “…producing a combined global carbon footprint of 878 million tons of C02 in 2018…”

    The total mass of CO2 in the atmosphere is estimated to be 3 x 10^15 kg. 878*10^6 tons is about 8*10^11 kg, or 0.02% of total CO2, which by the way, is not even the most significant greenhouse gas, which is water vapor.

  • avatar

    I wonder how many flew or took the bus to the protest.

  • avatar

    Capitalism is just the word used for freedom by people who aim to take it away. Stop them where you find them.

  • avatar

    Riding bikes is racist, sexist, and ageist as 90% of bike commuters are middle-aged white males.

    Riding horses causes climate change because horses burn hay and emit lots of methane and particulates.

    Driving EVs in Germany means your transport is coal powered since Germany is building coal plants to replace nuclear plants that the Greens don’t like.

    I’m also going to guess that most of the protesters are for open borders and a generous welfare state. So when the German automakers shut down or move out of Germany, and the state loses all the revenues they get from gasoline/diesel taxes, who or what is going to pay for all the free goodies to newly unemployed autoworkers and the newly arrived residents from the Middle East and Africa?

    The Left is always good with critiques, but have yet to provide a workable solution to all the problems they protest.

  • avatar

    Jerks like this are why I never give money to groups like Greenpeace. They just give the anti-environment folks ammunition as will be seen in the posts here by the climate change deniers. ICE powered vehicles will always have a place, at least for the foreseeable future.

    • 0 avatar

      Is Obama a climate change denier? I notice he just spent over fifteen million dollars of the money he made selling out the imbeciles who voted for him on waterfront property that will be underwater in eighteen months to twelve years, depending on which doomsday muppet you subscribe to.

      • 0 avatar

        You must remember that Obama has the power to keep the oceans from rising (he said so himself), so he no doubt thinks his “magic powers” will protect his new ocean front mansion from the rising tides. In any case, I’m sure there will be an electric helicopter fully charged and ready to fly Michelle and him off the island if Greenland melts.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Yep @Todd. The world may in fact end tomorrow, but I wasn’t born yesterday.

  • avatar

    Never sees the big picture.

  • avatar

    time to re-doubt my effort to create an engine that runs on the tears of snowflakes and minced baby dolphins. I think I will make it a hybrid – but use a crowd of socialists instead of horses to pull it for extra power.

  • avatar

    There are two sides to environmentalists, one side works towards sustainability by planting trees, clean sides of roads, conserve by buying reusable items over one time use items, turn off water when brushing teeth and generally pay attention to things that bother them and they can make a positive difference by putting in action.

    Then there are those that appear to have no job and are protesting an idea or use environmentalism as a thinly veiled disguise to support socialism, communism, etc. These people are all talk and will actively work against their “so-called cause” by destroying others’ property, littering, and generally not practicing what they preach – these people are despicable are give a bad name to the entire idea of sustainability and generally being an environmental steward.

    This reminds me of moments after Trump delivered his commencement speech on Jan, 20th, my family was walking through DC looking for another sub station that was open (as the one we entered DC on was closed off), walking through one part of DC seemed post apocalyptic, The entire street was littered with anti-trump posters and signs just left carelessly strewn in the street, one sign I noticed ironically had some environmental message scrawled across it. Apparently the cause wasn’t very important to them.

    • 0 avatar

      You must not have been on 14th St., you missed the limo that the greenies helpfully burned. It will never pollute again! After all that black smoke stopped pouring off of it, of course.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you Hummer ! .

      This old geezer agrees .

      Stupid people (? kids ?) don’t know squat nor how good they have things .

      I don’t see these fools rushing to buy bicycles n or taking the bus…

      Just keep them off my lawn please .


    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      This flavor of environmentalism is like a Watermelon…Green on the outside, but red on the inside.

  • avatar

    There was a reason my ancestors emigrated from Alsace-Lorraine all those many, many years ago. They settled in Maryland but continued on to the West when the European cultural craziness followed. Good decision, worked out well for me.

  • avatar

    Never realized there were so many white nationals, fascists and people totally ignorant of science who read this site.

  • avatar

    As a German and SUV fan (and driver) I am outraged at the stupidity and annoyance which these ‘climate activists’ combine. A few months ago during the height of the climate change hysteria I already received a hatred letter from these Friday for Future ‘activists’. They attached it to my windshield. I guess I was lucky they did not smash in my windshields or physically damage my SUV, because other SUV drivers were not as lucky.

    The hate against the automobile in Germany is being socially engineered by political parties, namely the Greens and Die Linke (the successor to the East German SED [communist] party). It is their desire to stop individual mobility and force everyone into mass public transportation. That is their goal, and they are brainwashing the German youth into hating the product which has brought prosperity and high living standards to my country. It is unbelievable what is happening here.

    One more thing. This ‘activist’ Tina Velo (that’s not her real name) appeared on the German talkshow Maybrit Illner (along with Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess) where she was allowed to spew her garbage. I saw the show. Now, I am usually calm, rational and in control of my emotions. But in this case I had a desire to physically slap her in the face and give her a good punch for a good measure. She made me a very angry man. Miss Velo demanded car-free cities and slandered all types of cars, including the electric car. She wants to live in a world in which cars do not exist. According to her twisted beliefs we should all use public transportation (remember, she hates cars, so this does not include buses) such as trains or subway trains and streetcars. Those of us who are in good health should walk or use bicycles – including riding them from city to city. This woman is insane in my opinion.

    And in a few months we can all rejoice at even more expensive fuel prices thanks in part to idiotic German teenagers and several political parties demanding a carbon tax. By the year 2030, we will be paying 60 cents extra per liter of gasoline and 61 cents extra per liter of diesel. With fuel prices currently in the high 1.60 / per liter (premium gasoline), this would mean that in the year 2030 we will be paying 2.20 Euros per liter, or roughly $9 or $10 per gallon if my calculations are correct.

    All of this madness because some people believe we can stop global warming by cutting down on the use of fossil fuels.

    • 0 avatar

      Isn’t such lawlessness and general hatred of these groups condemned by politicians? Your country is in trouble, whether it’s a civil war or a come to Jesus moment that it takes to fix it, I can’t say. I wish you the best, but I can’t imagine trying to defend myself from crazy’s without my countries Second Amendment. Riling up the youth to take a stand against XYZ just has a bad history in Germany.

      As an aside I just paid $2.15 for gas here, if I drive to the state south of mine the price is about $1.99 a gallon.

      • 0 avatar

        Radical, radical is the word I was looking for, anyone going around destroying property for a political ideology and generally spreading hate is radical and should be considered a terrorist. I don’t doubt for a second that the same people doing this would attack and harm individuals over their concern if given the opportunity.

      • 0 avatar


        Our politicians should be criticizing these actions, but they do not. In fact they subtly support it. Merkel and the other lefty political parties have praised these ‘Friday For Future’ kids and the eco-terrorists, excuse me, eco-activists.

        The only political parties which criticize these radical eco-fools are the FDP (Free Democratic Party) and the AfD (Alternative for Germany). And both these parties are as a result of this criticism insulted, particularly the AfD which is labeled as ‘far right’ and ‘Nazi’ for opposing the actions of these idiotic teenagers.

        Sadly, there is a hostile political climate in Germany where a fair and open discussion is unwanted. The political parties in charge want a war on the automobile, and they are supported by the mainstream media (which in Germany is essentially state-run!!!). For example, in a talk show about global warming you will not find a single guest who criticizes or questions this phenomenon. The talk show is filled with selected guests who will tell the viewers that climate change is real and it is ‘man made’ and thus ‘we (Germans) need to spend more money, eat less meat, abstain from air travel and so forth’ in order to ‘save the global climate’. It is hard to believe, but this is precisely what is happening here.

        It is an unbearable political and social atmosphere.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s a sad place to be, certain people have attempted to AstroTurf similar ideas into our country with limited results. Our youth seems to be turning to the right and away from such ideas but looking at our media you would think our entire country was far-left.

          As you said, open discussions in our media about various topics is quickly shouted down, most of us can tell they lie to us, even before Trump ever made it a point I think most of our country could see the majority of the media, owned by so few individuals that are against us. Certain people will scoop up anything they’re told as long as they believe the source, but most do not.

          As the case has been for the last 20 years through multiple wrong predictions, Americans just like Germans are treated like dopes and expected to believe man-made global warming as a religion. The only solution is for the government to save us by taking away our rights. It’s an hilariously poor argument that hinges on muffling any form of non conforming thought.

  • avatar

    I totally agree with protesters. Germans invented ICE and car and they have to lay it to rest. I learned at training we had at work that most innovative countries are US, Israel, Japan and (surprise, surprise) Nederland. China was not on the list – they steal not invent. Germany is old fashioned country and fell behind times. Before WWII Germany was the leading country in science at least. US has a huge advantage over all other countries – it is immigration – all talented people from around the world aspire to immigrate to US to become rich and famous. It is impossible in China, Korea and Japan and in Europe too. There is a such a thing as an American Dream – it is unique to America. There is no Chinese or Canadian or European dream.

    • 0 avatar

      What Germany does will not affect the world. We could disappear from the map tomorrow and our global CO2 contribution of 2.2% will be emitted by China or the United States in a matter of weeks or months.

      ‘Klimaschutz’ (climate protection) is a complete waste of money and time.

      • 0 avatar
        Master Baiter

        Sadly, you are correct.

        The welfare states of Europe have produced a generation of entitled fools who, raised with no other religion, latch onto radical environmentalism in attempt to give their lives some measure of meaning. Their belief system has all the trappings of a religion: The Earth as God, ICE as the Devil and the coming apocalypse (climate change).

        These useful idiots have no idea how wealth is generated, and no appreciation for the fact that the best path to preserving the environment, a goal we all share, is to generate wealth via the free market system.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know. If Germany disappears EU will be done and gone. France was and is a caricature or comedy show, cannot take them seriously. But Germany burns lot of coal. It is a small country – cannot you just ride bikes.

        Germany BTW is the biggest and baddest critic of Trump and Bush. So I wold say it is German’s government’s obligation to get rid of cars if they want to be taken seriously regarding their position on climate change.

    • 0 avatar

      “Germans invented ICE and car and they have to lay it to rest.”


      Does the same apply to guys happening to live in the same country as whomever dude at one point “invented” clean water as well?

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