Car-makers have an opportunity to save jobs and protect themselves against future technology threats if they fully embrace design and manufacture of electric vehicles and their parts.
Unions at Daimler, the world’s oldest mass car-maker, have been working with the company to manufacture more components in their own plants for the new generation of EVs being developed by the company.
German carmakers are investing heavily in electric vehicles (EVs), spurred by advances in battery technology and amid a growing backlash against the environmental impact of diesel fumes.
The maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars plans to launch at least six, and possibly as many as nine, electric car models as part of its push to compete with Tesla and Audi, and BMW is also considering what it will be making over the next two decades.
Electric engines require fewer workers to build than those needed for more complex combustion motors, and to counteract the reduction in labor Daimler should produce more EV parts itself, works council chief Michael Brecht said in an interview with Reuters.
“The number of staff you need to build a combustion engine is roughly tenfold compared to the number of staff for an electric engine,” said Brecht, who is a vice chairman of Daimler’s supervisory board.
Daimler is the world’s leading premium car-maker, employing 284,000 people. Similar to other listed German companies, half of its supervisory board is made up of labor representatives who collectively have power to block company decisions.
Brecht said Daimler’s works council had agreed with top management to examine the possible effects of electric mobility on employment at all of the group’s sites, expanding research conducted in 2012 that was confined to an engine-making facility.
The site that would be hardest hit by the shift to electronic cars would be Untertuerkheim in Stuttgart, where 19,000 are employed to make engines, transmissions and axles. But Brecht added that plants like Rastatt, where compact models are assembled in southwest Germany, would also be affected.
“We want the German Daimler sites to participate in the company’s electric car strategy, not only in research and development but also in manufacturing,” said Brecht.
Car makers who are now seeing a big decline in diesel engine orders face making thousands redundant while others are also suffering a slow down in sales of petrol engined models as buyers move towards more hybrids and pure EVs.
Ford said it was a shift to smaller petrol engines which has made it rethink its future production plans and nearly halved investment for Bridgend Engine Plant but it has also said it remains committed to Wales where it employs over 1,800 people.
The Unite union at the plant has called for clarification of Ford plans as BEP will also lose the contract to build V6 and V8 petrol engines for Jaguar Land Rover by the end of the decade.
Using space which is no longer allocated for petrol engines and having a trained workforce is being seen as an opportunity to invest in making parts for electric vehicles, says Daimler workers.