Friday, February 21, 2020

"Shades of Detroit? Germany's auto heartlands in peril as 'golden age' fades"

From Reuters:
When Kristin and Thomas Schmitt took out a mortgage and bought a house last summer, the German couple’s dream looked as if it was coming true. Two months later, they learned that the tire factory where both work would be shut down early next year.

A malaise in Germany’s mighty automobile industry, caused by weaker demand from abroad, stricter emission rules and electrification, is starting to leave a wider mark on Europe’s largest economy by pushing up unemployment, eroding job security and hitting pay.

“It’s a nightmare. This is pulling the rug out from under our feet,” said Kristin Schmitt, 40, of the plant closure in the Bavarian region of Bamberg, one of Germany’s auto supplier hubs.
The couple, who have three children, still hopes managers at their Michelin tire factory change their mind, but the risk of unemployment looms large - and not only for the Schmitts.

The German auto sector is expected to cut nearly a tenth of its 830,000 jobs in the next decade, according to the VDA industry association.

Some think-tanks and government officials fear that the toll will be higher as electric cars provide less assembly work than combustion engine vehicles, simple work steps are replaced by automation and companies relocate production.

This is not yet 1970s Detroit, a U.S. car center that was plagued by urban decay as factory relocations, cheaper imports and higher fuel prices destroyed jobs.

But the danger is growing, automotive companies, workers, as well as regional and labor leaders, told Reuters.
Different firms are taking different steps. At the Schmitts’ plant in Hallstadt, workers are trying to avoid forced layoffs; at a Bosch factory in nearby Bamberg, pay cuts and reduced hours have been agreed, as has investment in new fuel cell technology....

 Fuel cells?

"Hi, do you have a moment to learn about the potential of hydrogen and/or ammonia?"
Bear via Cottage Life
Caption idea by way of the incomparable Paul Bronks