Handelsblatt Interview Ford’s German Head Warns of Political Risks

The new head of Ford Germany, Gunnar Herrmann, has warned of political risks ranging from populism to Brexit that could hurt the car industry.
Gunnar Herrmann (left) is a new face in Germany's automotive world. He sees many political risks to his business.

Less than two months into the job, Ford's new chief of Germany already has his eye on of range of political headaches ranging from populism to Brexit that could hurt the car industry.

“We are observing national populism, the debt crisis in Greece – several political uncertainties,” said Gunnar Herrmann. “For global companies these are the biggest disturbances. We have to assess which impact these political themes have on our business.”

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration was one of the political risks globally, but Britain’s exit from the European Union was posing the largest challenge for Europe, said Mr. Herrmann, who has taken over from Bernhard Mattes.

“We are the market leader in Britain and export many cars to the country. The wrong conditions (from Brexit) will certainly create large economic damage, not only in the U.K.,” the 56-year old executive said.

Cars in Britain could become 5 to 10 percent more expensive if harmonized trade regulations in the 28-member E.U. were dropped in the country and World Trade Organization rules were applied instead, Mr. Herrmann said.

Ford's main European plant is in Cologne, but it also produces engines in Britain. Even with Brexit, cutting production was currently not a topic being discussed, the manager said. Moving manufacturing would take up financial resources already reserved for “new mobility concepts,” Mr. Herrmann said.

Ford’s carsharing business in Germany was an example of such new driving concepts, he said.

A “serene” approach to the Trump administration was required, Mr. Herrmann added. “I agree with Chancellor (Angela) Merkel that we should observe all factors of our economic interaction objectively and rationally.”

 

Lukas Bay is an editor with Handelsblatt's companies and markets desk. To contact the author: [email protected]