German Automakers And Climate Policy

An InfluenceMap Report

November, 2021

German automakers dominate the fight to weaken climate regulation

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See coverage in Süddeutsche Zeitung, N-TV, Hamburger Abendblatt, edie, Electrive, Berliner Morgenpost and Tagesspiegel Background.

InfluenceMap's new report finds that BMW has emerged as the German automotive sector’s leading opponent of climate policy in Germany and Europe. While the German automotive industry has increasingly stated top-line support for the Paris Agreement and long-term climate targets - key groups like BMW and the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) have advocated to weaken near-term climate regulations to reach such goals. The report demonstrates how the German auto sector more broadly has lobbied against two key policies - higher CO2 emissions standards for light-duty vehicles and ICE phase-out dates. The research further highlights ‘green’ PR campaigns German automakers have used to deflect growing public and government concerns over the sector’s climate footprint, with road transport estimated to account for 19% of Germany's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020.

The research highlights the threat to German and EU climate targets if regulations are weakened by negative automotive industry climate policy engagement. This is significant due to the ongoing German coalition government’s negotiations, which will likely include a road transport decarbonization plan, and current EU parliamentary negotiations on CO2 standards for light-duty vehicles. The research also highlights Volkswagen's mixed but increasingly positive direct climate policy engagement - while remaining a key member of industry associations, including the VDA, with active negative climate policy engagement.

  • The research covers the three big German automakers and their two key industry associations, the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). Collectively, these groups disclose an EU lobbying spend of over €10 million per year. It involved the collection and analysis of over 1,000 items of evidence on climate policy engagement, with 400+ of these dated since 2020. This includes a significant amount of previously unseen information, accessed from over 10 freedom of information requests (FOIs) by InfluenceMap.

  • Negative climate policy engagement (with climate policy engagement scores in brackets on a scale of A to F) appears to be led by BMW (D), which has actively opposed key European climate policies in 2019-21. This is followed by Daimler (D) which has failed to disclose key climate policy positions and engagement. In contrast, Volkswagen (C) has mixed but increasingly positive climate policy engagement. All three companies are board members of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) (E+), with active negative climate policy engagement at the German and EU-level, and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) (D), with mixed to negative engagement in the EU.

  • The research also highlights how German automakers have increasingly stated top-line support for a low-carbon modal shift, while using their industry associations to oppose key EU and German modal shift policies.

  • The German automotive industry has also invested in sophisticated ‘green’ PR campaigns linking their brands and industry to ‘sustainable mobility’ and ‘electrification’, while lobbying against climate legislation to promote EVs. These include BMW's global PR "sustainability" campaign to launch its iX and i4 series of EVs in "long-term collaboration" with Coldplay, featuring an advert with models wearing clothes printed with taglines including "THERE IS NO PLANET B" and "MAKE EARTH COOL AGAIN". Such green PR starkly contrasts with BMW's and VDA's advocacy to weaken and delay key EV-related climate legislation in Germany and the EU.