A Lot of People Were Protesting Cars in Germany Over the Weekend, but SUVs Received Special Attention
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.
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- Marvin Im a current owner of a 2012 Golf R 2 Door with 5 grand on the odometer . Fun car to drive ! It's my summer cruiser. 2006 GLI with 33,000 . The R can be money pit if service by the dealership. For both cars I deal with Foreign car specialist , non union shop but they know their stuff !!! From what I gather the newer R's 22,23' too many electronic controls on the screen, plus the 12 is the last of the of the trouble free ones and fun to drive no on screen electronics Maze !
- VoGhost I'm clearly in the minority here, but I think this is a smart move. Apple is getting very powerful, and has slowly been encroaching on the driving experience over the last decade. Companies like GM were on the verge of turning into mere hardware vendors to the Apple brand. "Is that a new car; what did you get?" "I don't remember. But it has the latest Apple OS, which is all I care about." Taking back the driving experience before it was too late might just be GM's smartest move in a while.
- VoGhost Can someone Christian explain to me what this has to do with Jesus and bunnies?
- Del My father bought GM cars in the 60's, but in 1971 he gave me a used Datsun (as they were called back then), and I'm now in my 70's and am happy to say that GM has been absent from my entire adult life. This article makes me gladder than ever.
- TheEndlessEnigma That's right GM, just keep adding to that list of reasons why I will never buy your products. This, I think, becomes reason number 69, right after OnStar-Cannot-Be-Disabled-And-It-Comes-Standard-Whether-Or-Not-You-Want-It and Screw-You-American-Car-Buyer-We-Only-Make-Trucks-And-SUVs.
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.
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.