Germany’s top three automakers went to Washington on Tuesday to make nice with Donald Trump, who is still dangling the sword of tariffs over the carmakers’ heads. Top executives from the companies promised President Trump they were changing their ways and shifting production to the US. VW said it would partner with Ford and Microsoft and maybe even build a second plant in the US. BMW promised further investments and 1,000 jobs.
Miffed at the absence of red carpets and bubbly, German media harrumphed that these maneuvers degraded the German carmakers to supplicants. But who was degrading whom? VW may have presented its plans as new, but astute Handelsblatt readers will realize them as old.
Automakers, let’s hope your getaway car is ready to roll.
Back in VW’s Wolfsburg HQ, there was actual new news, namely an end date for diesel, announced at Handelsblatt’s annual confab of carmakers. In 2026, VW will make its last cars with diesel engines, said Michael Jost, manager of products strategy at VW. The carmaker views its future as electric. That’s great news for VW (I hope) but poke any German driver and watch them soften as they eulogize the diesel’s throaty rumble. Industry insiders, meanwhile, fear what German carmakers do best is diesel, and anybody can build an e-car – basically a box with a battery – including China. Sure. But clean air will benefit everybody with lungs.
In Germany, all are glued to their seats, metaphorically, as the race draws to an end between Merkel’s successors. Set to vote on Friday, the CDU’s 1,001 delegates have a choice of three candidates: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the popular favorite also known as AKK; comeback kid Friedrich Merz; and Jens Spahn, a relative newcomer. The candidate will need an absolute majority to win and though polls put AKK in the lead, bookies have Merz at 1:3 and AKK a 1:4.
Yesterday, Wolfgang Schäuble, the former finance minister and Bundestag president, backed Friedrich Merz, saying he would be the best candidate for the country and will conserve the conservative party’s identity. That’s a weighty endorsement and a move against Merkel, whose candidate is AKK. Could this be Schäuble’s revenge? He was sidelined by Merkel, also in a pre-Christmas op ed in the same newspaper in 1999, when she said it was time for the party’s renewal, outmaneuvering CDU rivals to take on the party leadership. At the time, Schäuble was party chair and had not approved her clarion call. Media here called his support for Merz a boomerang. The gloves are off.
If you want to receive the Daily Briefing in your inbox or subscribe to our other newsletters, please click here.