FRANKFURT — Disruptions to the auto industry from the coronavirus outbreak could make it harder for automakers to meet the EU’s new CO2 targets, said a German politician who is also a member of Volkswagen Group’s supervisory board.
Bernd Althusmann, the economic minister of Lower Saxony, where VW is based, told the German news agency dpa this week that it would now be “likely more difficult to fulfill” the 2020 phase-in of the EU’s fleet emissions target of 95 grams per kilometer.
“I hope the European Union recognizes this,” he said.
Automakers who cannot meet this target are liable for fines that could reach into the billions of euros.
Retail sales of VW Group vehicles fell 14 percent in the first two months of 2020 to 1.38 million units, and 35 percent in March alone as showrooms and production sites were shut down across Europe. On Thursday VW withdrew its 2020 outlook after first quarter operating profits fell by 81 percent.
The fall in sales and other coronavirus related disruptions, including the suspension of factory activities, supply-chain issues and a general economic slowdown, could make the 2020 carbon compliance targets even more difficult to reach. Analysts say it’s not yet clear how consumers will react when car sales resume.
“Exacerbating the already tense situation within the entire German auto industry and its supply chain would be a fire accelerant for Germany as a manufacturing location” if the emissions targets aren’t reached, Althusmann said, according to dpa.
A spokesman for Althusmann told Automotive News Europe that the minister’s comments reflected his personal view and did not represent a common position of the state’s government, nor was he speaking in his capacity as a member of the Volkswagen Group supervisory board, where he represents the interests of Lower Saxony, the automaker’s second largest shareholder with a blocking minority.
VW says it is not campaigning to postpone, water down or suspend the emissions limits.
“We have adapted ourselves to meet the 2020 targets, we are committed and from our perspective we will not call for an extension of the targets,” VW Group CEO Herbert Diess told reporters in mid-March.