BERLIN -- Germany's automakers will fight against a "crusade" against the car waged by populist politicians, said Bernhard Mattes, the former head of Ford's German operations who is now president of the country's VDA auto industry lobby.
Mattes said the industry would campaign harder against regulations they felt unfairly targeted their car buyers.
The VDA will raise its voice in 2019 "louder than last year," Mattes said. "We don’t need a crusade against the car," he told guests including politicians and business leaders at the VDA's annual reception here Wednesday.
Mattes cited a recent heated debate in Germany about imposing a speed limit for the country’s autobahns as an example of "hysterical" populism.
On Wednesday, Germany's transport minister Andreas Scheuer reportedly urged the European Commission in a letter to review its stringent limits on nitrogen dioxide pollution, saying some doctors are questioning their health merits.
Additionally, Mattes argued that CO2 regulations requiring automakers selling cars in Europe to reduce their CO2 fleet emissions by 37.5 percent by 2030 would risk massive effects on the industry in Germany and by extension on employment.
Commenting on Brexit, he called on both sides to find a solution that prevents the UK leaving the EU without a trade deal on March 29.
Besides the effects on trade, a no-deal Brexit would create a severe environmental problem because traffic jams as long as 30 km would build up at the key ports of Dover in England and Calais in France if there are customs checks between the EU and UK.
Germany's automakers could build 17 million vehicles in their plants across the globe this year depending on the severity of trade tensions, Mattes predicted.
Last year, VDA members built 16.5 million cars worldwide, including 5.1 million in Germany.