Vi­sion of the road ahead

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Paul Gover -

THE fu­ture of the au­to­mo­bile is safe, de­spite the threats of global warm­ing and the lim­ited fu­ture of oil. So says Di­eter Zetsche, and he should know.

Zetsche is the top man at Daim­ler and, dur­ing a fly­ing visit to Aus­tralia for the 50th an­niver­sary of Mercedes-Benz Down Un­der, he cov­ered a lot of ground in a one-hour brief­ing in Syd­ney.

‘‘I do be­lieve in the con­cept of in­di­vid­ual mo­bil­ity. This gives free­dom. This gives the way of ex­press­ing your­self,’’ Zetsche says.

‘‘This is a time of tran­si­tion, trans­for­ma­tion. It’s a threat if you don’t do any­thing and an op­por­tu­nity if you get ahead of the wave.’’

He ad­mits cars cre­ate pol­lu­tion, but also says it is only 10 per cent of the to­tal and high­lights the changes that need to come in other ar­eas.

Zetsche talks big on ev­ery­thing from May­bach to Smart, in­tel­li­gent trans­porta­tion net­works to al­ter­na­tive fu­els, and he has the his­tory and re­search to back his con­clu­sions. Daim­ler is the world’s old­est car­maker and, thanks to the cash flow from its sil­ver star, has the money to be driv­ing from the front.

But he ad­mits the face of mo­tor­ing is about to change, with ev­ery­thing from elec­tric cars and hy­brids to light­weight tech­nolo­gies and even a split be­tween green city cars and more tra­di­tional petrol-pow­ered dis­tance ma­chines.

‘‘We and oth­ers will not be able to weather this with­out any im­pact,’’ he says. ‘‘But we feel we are about the best pre­pared for th­ese head­winds.’’

Even so, he is con­fi­dent the world will still need au­to­mo­biles.

‘‘The cus­tomer . . . will con­tinue to de­mand cars. And it is our task to of­fer cars that cus­tomers can en­joy,’’ he says.

‘‘The best way to tackle th­ese chal­lenges is to sleep well at night. The most im­por­tant an­swer to those chal­lenges is the change of tech­nol­ogy.’’

Re­as­sur­ing note: Daim­ler chief Di­eter Zetsche in Syd­ney.

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