PARIS - Executives at German automakers are worried about the influence that Germany's Greens, or environmentalists, will wield in the country's new government.
Germany's new chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and his Social Democrats have allied with the Greens to form a majority in the German Bundestag. Among the Greens' policy planks: a 100kph speed limit on Germany's autobahns, and higher gasoline prices.
'It would be the end of the auto industry here. Everything is global with the exception of the government: they would stay and every automaker would go,' said Juergen Hubbert, head of Daimler-Benz's passenger car division.
The myth of the German no-speed-limit autobahn is just that - a myth. Speeds on all but about 1 percent of the autobahn network have long been controlled; where they are not, heavy traffic puts an effective damper on speeds.
However, said Hubbert, being able to boast that German cars are engineered to attain autobahn speeds of more than 240kph is a big marketing advantage.
'Why else would you buy a VW in the USA?' he asked.
But Hubbert also said Schroeder is more aware of industry concerns than his predecessor, Helmut Kohl. Before Schroeder was elected chancellor on 27 September, he was prime minister of the state of Lower Saxony. In that post, Schroeder sat on the board of Volkswagen AG. Lower Saxony controls 40 percent of VW's stock.
'Hopefully, Schroeder and his party colleagues who are realists understand that the German automotive industry is the driver of the whole economy,' Hubbert said. 'If you stop this driver, you kill the whole economy.'
Bernd Pischetsrieder, chairman of BMW, said he also has faith in Schroeder.
'The last chancellor was more interested in European integration than the German economy,' he said. 'It will be much easier to pick up the phone and tell Schroeder my problems.'