In his speech to some 300 guests, Kilian underscored that “the European Union is a guarantee of peace, freedom, prosperity and open trade. The united Europe is our future.” Between the great powers of the USA and China, Europe must find a clear agenda for the future – while maintaining good relationships with both global powers. And the EU must put an end to separatist movements. “We have to make the EU attractive once again for member states, and above all for the people who live and work here. They need to experience an enriching, progressive, and joyous Europe for themselves and in their everyday lives.” Volkswagen would be taking a clear stance in the run-up to the European elections. “For European unity, for our common values, for a peaceful coexistence. We will formulate a clear call for votes in the election because our democracy needs every vote.”
With reference to the Continent’s economic situation, Kilian said the automotive industry had contributed greatly to growth and prosperity in Europe. “The automotive industry provides people with jobs, offers income and upward mobility for people more than almost any other industry.” He cited the Volkswagen Group as an example. “Volkswagen is a European company through and through: twelve brands from seven European countries, 71 production sites in Europe alone, and almost 75% of our over 642,000 employees work in the EU.”
But the industry is facing far-reaching change from e-mobility and digitalization. Volkswagen would be contributing to protecting the climate with its “Roadmap E”, the program to electrify the Group’s vehicles. “We want to safeguard Europe as an industrial location. That is why we are investing almost €30 billion into the research, development and production of electric vehicles over the next five years. That is why we are making efforts not to simply eliminate jobs but rather to dismantle jobs only along the demographic curve. That is why we are investing massively in training and qualifying our employees. That is why we are successively converting our plants; that is why we will be producing our new all-electric models in Germany and at our European sites in future.”
The transformation, however, is an enormous undertaking, and political support, for example in expanding the charging infrastructure, is still too hesitant. “The successful implementation of e-mobility requires collective and coordinated action from the private sector – which, by the way, also includes power companies – that is, cities in Europe, the national governments and European policy. The establishment of energy networks, the expansion and standardization of the existing charging infrastructure, tax incentives and privileged treatment for electric mobility customers are the key factors that could significantly contribute to the success of electric mobility.”
Kilian stated: “I assure you we are committed. By 2025, we are planning to make at least 25 percent of our global sales with electric-drive vehicles. We are converting our plants.” With an unparalleled qualification initiative, Zwickau is currently turning into the largest training site for e-mobility. And that is just the first factory, others will follow.
Kilian underscored that the European automotive industry had proven itself to be a model employer over the past few decades. But the transition to electric motors creates an enormous challenge in terms of employment policy that the industry cannot shoulder alone. “I would therefore like to ask you here in Brussels especially to implement regulations prudently.”
According to Kilian, Europe is facing challenges which must be supported and practiced politically, economically and socially. Kilian called on his listeners: “If we lose sight of the social factor, we are threatening the success of electric mobility. The faster we have to boot up e-mobility, the harder it will be to modify employment policies in a socially responsible manner. Having an appropriate time frame is a decisive factor in this.”
The New Year Reception is the Group’s annual “calling card” for the political community in Brussels. The guests from politics, administration and industry include diplomats, civil servants and members of parliament.