LONDON -- If the European Union wants to push a faster shift to zero-emissions cars then Daimler is ready, but there needs to be an open debate on the impact electrification will have on auto jobs, the automaker's CEO, Ola Kallenius, said.
"It's an ambition that we say yes to," Kallenius said during an interview at a Financial Times conference on the future of the car. But he added, "We have to have an honest conversation about jobs."
"Everyone knows it takes more labor hours to assemble and build a combustion-based powertrain compared to an electric powertrain," he said.
The EU last month raised its target for cuts in net greenhouse gas emissions to 55 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels instead of 40 percent and Europe's automakers will find out in July what their contribution on CO2 emissions is expected to be.
There are broad expectations within the auto industry that there will be job losses associated with electrification, focused primarily on combustion-engine factories.
Germany's car industry faces an "employment fiasco" unless it gets badly needed investment in new technologies, especially batteries, the country's top labor leader said last week.
The warning from Joerg Hofmann, president of IG Metall, came after a survey by the Ifo institute showed that the transition to EVs could cost the industry about 100,000 jobs in combustion engine production by 2025 if companies fail to increase efforts to reskill workers.
Kallenius said the impact on jobs needs to be handled in a "socially responsible way."
He said the automaker is in "very constructive dialogue" with its works council and the industry will create more jobs in areas such as software engineering.
"But it [the engine jobs impact] is not something where we should not acknowledge that it's there," Kallenius said. "It is there."