Mr. Altmaier, Germany has the largest population in Europe, the “Made in Germany” brand is unique and is often a decision-clincher for success overseas. Germany’s research landscape is at the forefront in the world, its workers are well-educated and motivated. Yet there is a shortage of skilled workers, the expansion of broadband is lagging behind and – in comparison with other European countries – the energy prices are high. How would you convince a foreign investor to come to Germany?
Peter Altmaier: Germany is an open, attractive and world-renowned investment location. Investors can build upon the foundations of well-educated workers, a stable, quality environment and great legal security. Foreign direct investment in Germany has risen consistently since 2010, 20 percent overall against the 2010 level, and in 2015 it reached a value of €466bn. Some 80,000 foreign companies, employing around 3.7m people, are located in Germany. These stats paint a very clear picture: Germany is a good location for foreign investors.
Reliability and Germany – these used to be synonymous in German products and in German politics. But the diesel emissions scandal and the somewhat drawn-out process of forming a government have harmed that image. Is it lasting damage? Or is it simply a case of the country having problems just like any other?
Altmaier: I don’t really see much damage to the overall image. The diesel emissions scandal is a warning for the leadership and governance in the companies involved. But in the wake of the scandal the government itself has put into place a series of concrete measures to prevent any repeat – for example, producers must now perform the test procedures on their emissions systems publicly, emissions testing in real road conditions has been extended and a public testing laboratory is being built at the Federal Motor Transport Authority. And while it is correct that the process of forming a government took some time, there were extraordinary circumstances surrounding that process that are unlikely to be repeated.
The automotive industry is crucial to Germany’s economy. In electromobility, however, there is already very strong competition and the industry is facing huge challenges. Can Germany remain at the pinnacle of the global automobile industry?
Altmaier: The automotive industry is by some distance the most important industrial sector in Germany’s economy, with 820,000 employees and a turnover of €423bn in 2017. It is a world leader in product and process innovation. The industry has to start using this know-how actively if it is to continue playing a leading role in a continually changing global market. The industry must set itself the target of remaining a global leader.