By on January 24, 2020

The German equivalent of AAA, Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club (ADAC), has long been a proponent of a limitless Autobahn. However, the group recently walked back its zeal for the cause amid demands from environmental groups to enact speed limits in a bid to curb emissions.

While most of the Autobahn has the same posted limits you’d find on most North American highways, there are plenty of sections where people can drop the hammer and go as fast as conditions permit. Safety advocates have often raised an eyebrow, encouraging regulators to limit additional sections of the roadway, but universal limits have always been a bridge too far. Now that environmental groups have joined the fray, the issue has garnered a lot more attention. 

About a year ago, the German government commissioned a new climate-related report on mobility and the future of motoring. Among the recommendations were a call to eliminate the last sections of unlimited Autobahn in favor of a universal 130 kph and a ban on all diesel vehicles entering cities. Germany’s transportation minister, Andreas Scheuer, provided plenty of pushback, suggesting the proposal was part of an agenda with a woefully inadequate scope.

Despite this, calls for environmental action never slowed, and the Autobahn found itself in a odd position ⁠— encouraging ADAC to rethink its position. But the auto club isn’t supporting changing the highway so much as it is attempting to place itself in a more neutral position.

“The discussion about the introduction of a general speed limit on motorways is being conducted emotionally and is polarizing among members,” ADAC Vice President for Traffic, Gerhard Hillebrand, told DPA International. “That’s why the ADAC is currently not committing itself to a stance.”

ADAC has around 21 million members, so there’s bound to be internal conflict, but it seems kind of sad for the auto group to find itself in a position where it no longer feels comfortable having any opinion at all. Hillebrand said there needed to be a comprehensive study on the effects of a speed limit on the Autobahn ⁠— something that definitely already exists. “This would provide a solid basis for a decision [on a stance],” he said.

[Image: Michael von Aichberger/Shutterstock]

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28 Comments on “Fast Is Past: German Auto Club No Longer Opposes Speed-limited Autobahn...”

  • avatar

    Dangit, if any lobbying group needed to take a page from the NRA, it was this one. Be frustratingly stubborn, don’t give a millimeter of ground, vilify your opponents, and send hyperbolic mailers to your members every month to scare them into mobilizing their individual support.

    If they’re going to open the door, they need to be the ones to walk through it with a policy proposal, not publish some non-opinion and wait to be shafted. My suggestion: Unique (more expensive) registration/licensing requirements to exceed the general limit, to offset the increased emissions impact of their high velocity travels, and make EVs exempt from those requirements.

  • avatar

    Not unexpected

    ADAC like the AAA (with which it has an affiliation) has as its main product insurance with other services playing second fiddle. Check out their website.

    AAA, USAA, AARP, AOPA, CR and many other large organizations that started out by serving a rather focused membership have, as with all bureaucracies, needed to grow or die and have undergone significant mission drift to keep pace with our changing society.

  • avatar

    Unlimited sections are becoming less and less relevant as traffic grows, regardless of what happens legislatively. But eventually there will be a limit. There are too many forces aligned in that direction to hold out forever.

    Germans with normal cars do like to go 150-160 kph where conditions allow, and I could imagine that the compromise is making the limit 150 on currently unlimited sections. That would still be the second-highest limit in the world behind a couple stretches of highways in the UAE that have a 160 kph limit.

    • 0 avatar

      Unless things changed recently, you still have the ruling Christian Democratic party holding out for the unlimited stretches.

      The prevailing wisdom is that without them, German cars will lose their edge in export markets. And the German economy is based on “export or die.” BMW and Mercedes rely heavily on their high-speed performance image distinguishing themselves over Lexus and Infiniti.

      The attitude towards diesels, on the other hand, is quite the about-face from decades of encouraging diesel sales by taxing the fuel at a lower rate. They still emit less CO2 but it seems Dieselgate sent a message. They can’t be cleaned up much more without sacrificing driveability.

      • 0 avatar


        If you are no longer allowed to safely and comfortably drive your exquisitely engineered autobahn sled any faster than you can a solid axle diesel truck from the 50s, or a Kei car…. bye-bye any motivation to buy them in the longer run.

        “Status,” in a vacuum, only lasts for so long, once there are no longer any underlying fundamentals to back it up. And, while ever more insane “emissions” laws may afford premium priced brands an edge for awhile, eventually even well indoctrinated progressive dronelings will catch on to the obvious fact that no matter how “advanced” some giant German luxury barge gets, it will still pollute more in absolute terms, which is what matters for “the planet” (as if it cared), than even a much less technologically sophisticated hence cheaper and functionally equivalent Kei car.

      • 0 avatar

        The CDU will not be in power forever, as it steadily loses its voters to the neo-fascist AfD.

        • 0 avatar

          Right now the biggest problem the CDU faces are the Greens. If that political party comes into power then it is goodnight, Germany.

          And I am an AfD-Voter, by the way.

        • 0 avatar

          BTW FYI Italian facists were left wing organizations, in other words socialists. Same as German Nazis, which btw means National Socialists (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) who also were left wing progressive socialist organization.

          • 0 avatar

            Awhile back there was an in-depth professional twenty minute video on Youtube which has since been deleted (the censorship in Merkel’s Germany is becoming increasingly repressive). The video compared the current German Green Party to the National Socialists and what a surprise, they had so many similarities. To start with, both were on the extreme left of the political spectrum (the Green Party finances and supports and has demonstrations with the ANTIFA in Germany). The Greens and the Nazis want and wanted to create a new society based on race (the Greens want multiculturalism, the Nazis wanted ‘racial purity’). Extreme censorship, you ask? Why yes. The Greens brought us the radical DSGVO (GDPR) censorship laws which the EU has now forced on all member states. There is more, but you understand the idea.

            And a fun fact! The Nazis outlawed cruelty to animals and introduced humane slaughtering laws – the Greens pretend to abolish cruelty to animals but have done nothing to end their suffering (and the fact that they want more primitive, religiously-brainwashed people whose religion demands brutal live animal slaughter does not strengthen their already weak position in this regard.

            It is truly a shame that this video has been deleted. Thankfully in my circle of friends there are not many Green Party voters. The few who I know vote Green are typical hypocrites who drive the big luxury SUVs and live the jet-set lifestyle, but vote Green as a sort of forgiveness/sale of indulgence.

          • 0 avatar

            The talking point that Nazis were leftists may be the single dumbest thing that has come out of this whole sorry faux-populist white supremacy movement. Leftism has certainly had its genocidal dictators, but Hitler is not one of them.

            The mainstream left party in post-Weimar Germany were the Social Democrats, who Hitler liked so much that he banned them the second he came to power, and who formed the most effective resistance to Nazism within Germany. The Nazi platform, meanwhile, expressly sought to sideline Marxist thought and replace it with a nationalist ideology that is rather similar to what parties like AfD, FN, UKIP, and the Trumpist Republican Party are pushing today. Hitler himself defined the antecedent of the Nazi party as “a party of the Right” as early as 1922.

          • 0 avatar

            Your biggest issue is trying to map political ideology on one axis. At least 2 are really required. The main portions of the Nazi state were a large government that had almost full control of the economy. These are not conservative values, irregardless of what you have been told by neocons, who themselves are a leftist movement.

          • 0 avatar

            Tomas, agree with you – Antifa is the closest thing to brown shirts you can find today. American liberals do disservice to themselves supporting extremist organizations like Antifa – liberals will be the first who will end up in concentration camps to be terminated like it happened in socialist Russia and nazy Germany.

      • 0 avatar

        Which is why my beloved 2014 Jetta Diesel Wagon is not going with me when I relocate to Germany shortly. I don’t want to be stuck with a car that is toxic (pardon the pun) if I intend on selling, or having it restricted to where I can drive it.

        As for the speed limit debate, it’s still a source of pride, so I’d imagine it’ll go down swinging before the limitless stretches are all capped. I’ll enjoy it for as long as I can, but would be hard-pressed to believe they’d actually really go away entirely. It’s baked into the DNA of the German automotive make-up.

  • avatar

    Well, I guess they want to keep a low profile lest they meet the withering glare of Greta Thunberg.

  • avatar

    Disgusting news. This climate hysteria is out of control in Germany and I for one am so sick and tired of the annoying and hysterical and radicalized environmental groups here.

    I was never a member of the ADAC, but if I were I would resign my membership on the spot. Speeding in Germany is akin to your freedom to shoot and own guns in the United States.

    Cruising for hundreds of kilometers at a steady 120-130 kph is boring and dangerous for driver concentration (I recall reading a study which pointed out that this is why many countries with even lower speed limits tend to have more accidents on their highways – their drivers are literally falling asleep). I tend to cruise at 150 and 160 kph which I find to be a realistic compromise between achieving acceptable fuel economy and actually getting somewhere within a certain amount of time. The faster I drive, the safer I feel because my concentration heightens.

    • 0 avatar

      Germany selected themselves to single-handedly save the planet. I am afraid, at the end of the day they will receive the Rodney Dangerfield treatment.

      • 0 avatar

        Last time the tried to save planet was in 1933.

      • 0 avatar

        I share your view. Many German critics of this insane ecological policies quote Emanuel Geibels, who in the 1860s wrote: ‘Am deutschen Wesen mag die Welt genesen’, which can be translated into English as ‘the German character/mentality will/shall heal the world’.

        Essentially, Germany’s politicians once again feel they can singlehandedly save or change the world for the better. In this case they want to show the world how we can live happily ever after totally CO2-neutral by literally de-industrializing, de-mobilizing, de-energizing the entire nation while raising taxes on energy, food and living costs to outrageous levels all the while expecting its citizens to accept these drastic changes in their lifestyle/mobility. And this is suppose to show the world how to live CO2-free and ‘save the planet.’ The Chinese, the Indians, the Russians, the Americans etc. are all laughing at the utter stupidity of this German government and the North Korean-style Dear Leader at the top; Merkel.

        Our current GroKo government is an embarrassment and a disgrace. Merkel and her cabinet need to go and the AfD needs to introduce some logic and sense back into the Bundestag.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    I spend time in Germany every year for work and it seems to me that the vast majority of Germans are opposed to speed limits on Autobahns. I believe speed limited sections are around 30% of the various Autobahns. Most sections are still unlimited. Last year I drove mostly unrestricted from Stuttgart to Frankfurt and back at 210 km/h for much of the drive, which was the limit of my rented Audi due to the tire speed dating.

    I don’t think we will see the unlimited sections disappear any time soon. I think there would be too much opposition from the German people.

    • 0 avatar

      The DMS in the pic states a 6 mile long traffic jam ahead.That today is pretty much the norm there anyway caused either by accidents , construction sites or simply through heavy traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      The last official poll on the subject was 52% in favor of keeping the Autobahn speed limit-free and 48% in favor of speed limits.

      What skews this figure is the fact that many people were polled who rarely drove on the Autobahn, and who naturally are into slower speeds; they obviously voted in favor of speed limits, which angers me since they have to ruin it for everyone else.

      I enjoy speeding, however speeding is expensive on your wallet so most drivers in a hurry tend to stick to acceptable compromise speeds between 140-160 kph. It would be a shame and sheer horror to drive long trips at a sleep-inducing and concentration-destroying 120-130 kph. On lesser highways which were never constructed for high speeds, such a speed is perhaps more ‘tolerable’, but on the German Autobahns which are engineered for high speed driving, 120 kph is pure torture for the enthusiastic driver and car enthusiast. I am certain that anyone who has experienced the Autobahn and lesser highways can relate to what I am describing.

      • 0 avatar

        120 kph is 75 mph – do not think in Germany speed limit can be that low. In US it is a max speed at Interstate 5 between SF and LA. Of course most driver drive faster than that. I would say it is rather considered as a min speed. CHP does not object.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I’m sure that it’s changed since I’ve been there but the Autoroutes in France were just as fast as the Autobahnen to this Canadian. I was doing 140 Km/h in the ‘slow’ lane and was getting passed by absolutely everything. The Gendarmes pulled up behind us with lights flashing, so I started to slow down. Wrong move. The passenger cop was waving his arms at me to speed up – so I did, ready to pull off at the next off-ramp to get my ticket. They stayed with us until I got the car up to 160 Km/h, then passed us with a friendly nod and smile. It was a crazy scene to a guy who’d rarely topped 120 Km/h.

    • 0 avatar

      Especially jarring after the RCMP in BC rigidly enforce the 90 km/h limit on much of the Trans Canada highway in BC. I’ve seen people pulled over and ticketed for going 97 km/h.

    • 0 avatar

      What part of France? In the east, where I’ve spent time, the speed enforcement is actually quite strict. I was in the car with my Dad driving when he got pulled over and issued an on-the-spot fine for 135 km/h on a 120 km/h autoroute.

  • avatar

    Being a Corvair fan (my first car in 1971 was a 1965 Corvair Monza 140 hp 4-speed coupe)I drooled over the 1965 Monza convertible that went for a very affordable $16K early in the week. Yes, there are affordable classics to enjoy.

  • avatar

    Makes sense from an environmental perspective. It could be implemented right after they get around to banning private planes and boats, unnecessary air travel, mansions, automotive racing . . .

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