March 8, 2007: Deutsche Welle—German Carmakers Rev up Effort to Enter Hybrid Market

Mercedes Benz M-Class HyPer concept hybrid is still just that—a 2002 idea that never made it beyond the auto show circuit.

Summary: Nine years after Toyota first introduced its Prius to the world, you still can’t buy a German-made full hybrid. But with the spotlight focused on the Geneva Auto Salon, German carmakers are trying hard to look greenish.

"In fact, Germany trails the world’s automakers in terms of environmental developments, according to the German Auto Club (VCD) consumer group. The country only has one entry — VW’s Polo Blue Motion — in the list of the ten most environmentally friendly cars. Japan leads the pack with its two hybrid cars, the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic, the group said.

"Volkswagen presented its super-efficient, ultra-low emission Blue Motion line, and VW and Porsche have announced they are working together on a line of eco-friendly cars to come out by 2008. BMW and Chrysler, meanwhile, announced plans to team up to develop a ‘mild hybrid’ transmission system for rear-wheel-drive premium cars. Even full hybrids might be on the horizon."

Rather than emulate Japanese carmakers who have seen success by enhancing fuel economy across varied product lines, it seems Germany’s auto industry is closer to the US model: keep pumping out the most historically profitable classes. In their case, that happens to be high-end fuel guzzlers. Also like Detroit, the Germans may soon be facing regulatory pressure to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by a significant amount.

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