Electric cars spark fears at factories
THE rise of the electric car is starting to ripple through factories that churn out traditional engines, setting up a clash with workers worried about their future on the production line.
Staff at Mercedes-Benz’s biggest engine plant in Stuttgart, Germany, will slow production starting next month amid a dispute over the company’s planned battery facility at the site. BMW AG is scaling back customisation options to free up cash for its electric-car push. Schaeffler AG’s profitability targets are dropping as the company struggles to keep up with soaring investments in new technologies.
This string of announcements, in the space of less than a week, points to a seismic shift in the car industry, which remains the largest employer in Germany – home to the world’s biggest carmaker Volkswagen AG as well as luxury-car giants Daimler AG and BMW. Unchallenged for decades, these companies are finding they must either put all the resources they have into fending off the likes of Tesla Inc, or risk obsolescence.
“The industry is changing very rapidly,” Daimler’s head of powertrain production Frank Deiss said.
In particular, friction is growing between workers who build combustion vehicles – still the mainstay of most carmakers’ profits – and managers seeking to position their companies for a battery-powered future.
Mercedes, which is investing €10 billion (R148.6bn) as it prepares to roll out 10 electric models, expects as much 25 percent of its sales to come from the new technology by 2025, stoking concerns about job security, particularly at engine plants. – Bloomberg