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How Green Is That Electric Car? And When It Hits 100 M.P.H.?

They only look like conspicuous polluters.

A new breed of electric performance cars, including Porsche’s Taycan and the Tesla Model S P100D, shows how environmentally minded fans of horsepower might square their circles.

A supercar with a carbon footprint that seems closer to a jet engine’s than to a Prius’s may feel irresponsible in the face of climate change. But what about electric vehicles that can keep pace with or even outperform the likes of Lamborghini?

The Tesla Model S can sprint to 60 miles per hour in slightly more than two seconds, making it one of the quickest machines on the market. Is it notably cleaner than a comparably fast gasoline-fueled car like the BMW M5, which is powered by a fuel-hungry 617-horsepower twin-turbo V8?

The numbers say yes. The Tesla is convincingly the green choice, but there’s more to the story.

Even small, less powerful electric vehicles haven’t always been cleaner than the most efficient gas-powered autos. A 2012 article in The New York Times summarized a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists that found the environmental benefits of subcompact, modestly powered electric cars like the Nissan Leaf depended on where they were charged.

At the time, many states still relied heavily on coal-fired plants for electricity, and the investigators found that in some areas, electrics were no cleaner than efficient gasoline-powered cars when factoring in the emissions resulting from electricity generation.

E.V. technology has advanced considerably since then, and electricity generation in America has shifted, as well.

The latest report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a February article by David Reichmuth, its senior vehicles engineer, is much more optimistic than the one eight years ago. After analyzing all emissions — including those from fossil fuel production, along with conventional vehicle tailpipe emissions and power plant emissions — the group found that electric vehicles were responsible for about 10 percent less overall emissions in 2018 than they were just two years earlier. Emissions generated during vehicle and battery production or in the mining of lithium for E.V. batteries were not part of the calculation.

In this study, the average electric vehicle in the United States was found to be responsible for emission levels equivalent to those generated by a gasoline vehicle that gets 88 miles per gallon. In areas where a lot of coal is still burned to make electricity, the electric vehicle m.p.g. equivalency number can fall to as low as 49 miles to a gallon, but those areas are few and less densely populated than regions with clean power.

OK, but what about electric supercars like the Model S and Taycan? Since they produce mammoth horsepower, doesn’t it follow that their emission levels are high as well?

“A very powerful electric performance automobile is less efficient than a hyper-efficient E.V. but still far cleaner than a comparably powerful car that burns gasoline,” Mr. Reichmuth said in a telephone interview. He added that a Model S driven in California, which has some of the nation’s cleanest electrical power, is about equivalent to a gasoline vehicle that achieves 120 m.p.g. In other words, in an area with relatively clean electric plants, this extremely powerful machine can be cleaner than even the most efficient gas car.

The numbers Mr. Reichmuth cited assume that the Model S is driven responsibly. With the throttle held wide open, a Model S will gobble up the watt-hours. While Tesla doesn’t provide data for aggressive driving, some Tesla owners have explored the extremes. One estimate on Tesla’s web forums claims that at full throttle the car will use about 869 watt-hours of electricity per mile and have a range of about 88 miles on a full charge. In simple terms, that means driving 30 miles at full throttle would require about the same amount of electrical energy that an average American home uses in one day.

Driving at wide-open throttle at length would quickly heat the Tesla’s battery, triggering electronic safeguards that would slow the vehicle. So the Tesla isn’t going to take on gasoline rivals in an endurance race. But its fun-to-drive factor is very high, and in short sprints, it is nearly unbeatable. In one 2016 drag race captured on YouTube, a Model S takes on a 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat, and emerges the victor.

The Taycan, according to Car and Driver magazine, is rated even quicker, but the magazine editors recorded identical 70 MPGe power consumption with both cars on a 300-mile trip at 75 miles an hour. (MPGe is an acronym for miles per gallon equivalent, and it’s the government’s way of quantifying the efficiency of electric vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency, officially, pegs the Tesla at 97 MPGe combined city and highway driving, and the Porsche at 68 MPGe combined.)

The discrepancy in the Tesla and Porsche E.P.A. ratings is likely due to the structure of the test and appears to indicate that the Tesla has an efficiency advantage over the Porsche in stop-and-go city driving. No gasoline-powered high-performance car can be driven anywhere near as economically as the Tesla or Porsche electric.

A comparison of E.P.A. ratings suggests that the least economical gasoline-powered cars emit more than twice the emissions of the most economical gas car. For example, the Mitsubishi Mirage G4, with its three-cylinder engine, is E.P.A. rated at 35 m.p.g. combined, while a Ford Shelby GT 500 Mustang earns a 14 m.p.g. combined rating.

The spread between the electric extremes is much narrower. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric, one of the most efficient electric vehicles, is E.P.A. rated at 122 MPGe, yet the Tesla Model S Performance car earns a 98 MPGe rating.

Choosing a high-performance E.V. over a mild-mannered electric comes with much less of an efficiency penalty.

The way E.V.s are charged adds to their worth. When asked if electric cars were overtaxing the electrical grid, Mr. Reichmuth said, “A high-performance E.V. is not like an appliance with a cord that draws electricity in real time.”

He added, “Oftentimes, they are plugged in at night. So a high-performance model is going to be plugged in longer, but it doesn’t take more power at any one time.”

Consider, too, that charging stations are turning to renewable power sources like solar, in combination with a battery storage system. Tesla has promised that its Supercharger high-speed charger network will eventually be powered exclusively by renewable energy.

It’s all good news for performance enthusiasts. Now you can go fast and go green. You may have to play to an artificial soundtrack, but play you can.

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Prosecutors Target Ex-Audi Chief in First VW Emissions Trial

Ever since Volkswagen was caught five years ago using illegal software to conceal the fact that its “clean diesels” were actually rolling pollution machines, the company has insisted that the wrongdoing was the work of lower-level employees. Managers at the very top were clueless, Volkswagen’s lawyers have said.

On Wednesday, prosecutors in Munich will challenge that assertion in court for the first time. They will begin presenting evidence in the trial of Rupert Stadler, a former chief executive of Volkswagen’s Audi luxury car division. As a member of Volkswagen’s management board, he belonged to the top echelon.

The trial is the first in Germany stemming from the scandal, the culmination of an exhaustive investigation involving hundreds of witnesses and millions of documents. But the case will also test whether prosecutors can overcome the difficulties inherent in trying to convict top managers protected by layers of underlings. That is a problem that has also frustrated investigators in the United States when prosecuting corporate crime.

Mr. Stadler faces charges of fraud and false advertising stemming from accusations that Audi continued to sell diesel cars with illegal software even after U.S. authorities uncovered the cheating in 2015. Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche cars were programmed to meet air-quality standards while being tested, but they spewed copious amounts of diesel fumes in regular driving.

Mr. Stadler and three co-defendants, including Wolfgang Hatz, a former head of engine development at Audi, will be the first of dozens of former employees of Volkswagen to face trial in Germany in connection with the scandal.

Credit…Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Mr. Stadler, who could get five years in prison if convicted, is the second-highest-ranking manager to face charges after Martin Winterkorn, a former Volkswagen chief executive, whose trial is expected next year. Mr. Stadler, Mr. Winterkorn and Mr. Hatz have denied wrongdoing.

The panel of judges in the case will hear evidence in a high-security Munich courtroom once used to try terrorists; it was chosen because it is large enough to allow social distancing. The court has scheduled more than 180 days of testimony and legal arguments lasting until the end of 2022, an indication of the complexity of the case.

Even when the corporate wrongdoing is extensive it is often difficult to prove criminal culpability among top management. There is rarely a paper trail, and executives point fingers at one another to deflect blame. Middle managers usually wind up taking the fall, or top executives walk away with civil penalties, as has often been the case with bankers accused of cheating their customers. Serious jail time is rare.

Probably for that reason, German prosecutors are focusing on Mr. Stadler’s actions after the American Environmental Protection Agency formally accused Volkswagen of emissions violations in September 2015, when he could no longer plausibly maintain that he was unaware of the cheating.

Even though Volkswagen admitted wrongdoing, Audi claimed that its diesels were legal and continued to sell them in Europe for two more years. But those cars also proved to be fitted with illegal software.

Mr. Stadler, 57, has already spent four and a half months in pretrial detention, which can be imposed if there is evidence the defendant intends to flee or interfere with the investigation.

Audi has paid a fine of 800 million euros, or $930 million, for violations of German law and is not a defendant in the trial. But the testimony will focus renewed attention on the division, Volkswagen’s cash cow, and its prominent role in the genesis of the fraud.

Audi said in a statement that it was glad that the facts of the case would be determined by a court of law. “Audi has become a different company since the diesel crisis became known,” the company said. The company has not taken a position on the charges faced by its former chief executive.


Credit…Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Audi engineers invented the cheating software and exported it to the rest of Volkswagen, according to internal company documents previously reported by The New York Times and other news organizations.

In the early 2000s, engineers at Audi found that technology needed to make diesel models compliant with emissions standards caused the engine to run noisily when it was warming up. That would bother Audi’s affluent customers, executives thought.

So the Audi engineers devised software that could recognize when a car was undergoing an official emissions test, using parameters such as the amount of pressure on the gas pedal. Under test conditions the software, known as the “acoustic function,” optimized the emissions controls to make the car temporarily compliant. At other times the software reduced the controls to minimize noise — producing illegal amounts of poisonous nitrogen oxides as a result.

Audi employees and managers were well aware that what they were doing was illegal, according to emails and other documents seen by The Times.

“We won’t make it without a few dirty tricks,” an employee in Audi’s diesel motor development department wrote in an email to colleagues in January 2008. Audi managers and engineers bluntly discussed what was in effect a criminal conspiracy, using terms like “defeat device” or “cycle beating” that clearly connote illegal attempts to thwart regulators’ tests.

In 2006 Volkswagen engineers adapted the acoustic function software when they ran into problems developing a new diesel engine that could meet emissions standards in the United States, where the company planned a major “clean diesel” marketing campaign. The cars could not deliver on the clean diesel promise without causing excessive wear and tear on the engine.

Volkswagen engineers, with the help of the supplier Robert Bosch, refined the software developed by Audi to recognize the distinctive driving pattern that U.S. regulators used when conducting emissions spot checks. Only then were the pollution controls fully deployed. Volkswagen sold almost 600,000 cars in the United States with cheating software, including 80,000 with engines built by Audi.

Volkswagen gave up selling diesels in the United States after the scandal came to light, and has been trying to remake itself as a pioneer in affordable electric vehicles.

In line with German privacy rules, prosecutors publicly identified only Mr. Stadler among the four co-defendants because he is considered a public figure. But the names of two of the others have been widely reported. They are Mr. Hatz and Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, 63, who was head of thermodynamics in Audi’s engine development department and is cooperating with the authorities. The fourth defendant was identified only as Henning L., a 52-year-old engineer.

Mr. Hatz, 61, rivals Mr. Stadler in prominence. He was head of engine development at Audi while the acoustic function was being devised, and was later promoted to head of engine development for all of Volkswagen. Mr. Hatz later became head of research and development at Porsche, which belongs to Volkswagen, a job that made him a celebrity among sports car buffs.


Credit…Nikita Teryoshin for The New York Times

The only Volkswagen employees to be convicted in connection with the scandal so far were apprehended in the United States.

James Liang, an engineer who worked for Volkswagen in California, received a 40-month sentence after pleading guilty in 2017 to conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating the Clean Air Act. Mr. Liang was released last November, prison records indicate.

Oliver Schmidt, who worked as Volkswagen’s liaison with American regulators, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2017 after pleading guilty to charges that he helped cover up the wrongdoing. Mr. Schmidt was released last week, prison records indicate. The German edition of the Business Insider website reported Monday that Mr. Schmidt was transferred to Germany, where he is expected to be placed on probation.

Germany does not extradite its own citizens, so other suspects are safe from justice in the United States if they do not leave the country.

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Volkswagen Has Kept Promises to Reform, U.S. Overseer Says

Volkswagen completed the corporate equivalent of probation after a court-appointed monitor said Monday that the carmaker had fulfilled the conditions of a 2017 plea bargain stemming from its use of illegal software to evade emissions regulations.

The final report by Larry Thompson, a former United States prosecutor appointed to enforce Volkswagen’s promise to reform its corporate culture, noted that the German automaker had adopted measures like making it easier for employees to report wrongdoing. It is a major milestone for the company as it tries to recover from one of the biggest scandals in automotive history, one that has cost it well over $30 billion and severely damaged its reputation.

Volkswagen, the world’s largest carmaker, pleaded guilty in 2017 to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government and violate the Clean Air Act. The company had rigged its diesel-powered cars to meet air-quality standards while being tested, but they exceeded those standards in regular driving.

As part of the plea agreement with the Justice Department, Volkswagen agreed to cooperate with a court-appointed monitor whose job was to ensure that the company reformed its compliance systems and corporate culture so that similar wrongdoing would not happen again.

Mr. Thompson, the monitor, was deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush and later worked as general counsel for PepsiCo.

Mr. Thompson said Thursday that “the structures and processes are in place” to prevent future scandals of the same magnitude. “This is a starting point,” he said during a joint interview with Herbert Diess, the Volkswagen chief executive. “The company will need to be vigilant.”

The three-year project was costly and time consuming for Volkswagen, especially when the company is trying to make a transition to electric cars. The effort “was a very good investment,” Mr. Diess said.

“We had deficiencies,” he said. “The issues he pushed will make us a stronger company.”

Credit…Nikita Teryoshin for The New York Times

Mr. Thompson said he could not guarantee that there would be no other scandals at Volkswagen. “Volkswagen is such a large and complex company,” he said. “What I can certify to is that if another problem comes up, it will be handled much differently than the diesel scandal.”

Volkswagen has admitted that, after research at West Virginia University raised questions about the company’s diesel cars, executives spent more than a year deliberately misleading regulators before finally confessing in September 2015.

By coincidence, the Department of Justice on Monday announced a settlement with Daimler on accusations the company had also manipulated engine software to deceive regulators about how much pollution Mercedes cars and trucks produced during normal driving.

The settlement, which Daimler disclosed last month, will set the German company back about $1.5 billion after paying civil penalties, repairs to about 250,000 affected vehicles and other measures to compensate for the environmental damage.

The civil penalty portion of the Daimler settlement amounts to $3,500 per car, about $1,000 more per car than Volkswagen had to pay in 2017 — evidence, U.S. officials said during a news conference, that the Trump administration is tougher on polluters than it gets credit for. However, Volkswagen was required to buy back diesel cars from their owners and take other corrective measures that raised the total cost to around $15 billion.

By court order, Mr. Thompson operated largely in secret, supervising dozens of lawyers and specialists based at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, who oversaw attempts by the company to reform its sprawling organization. Volkswagen employs more than 670,000 people; it produced nearly 11 million vehicles last year.

Volkswagen’s unforgiving, win-at-all-costs culture was seen as the underlying cause of the emissions scandal. In 2006, when engineers developing a new diesel engine discovered that they could not meet United States emissions standards, they devised engine software designed to deceive regulators. To admit failure would probably have meant the end of their careers at Volkswagen.

Mr. Diess said that the emissions fraud occurred because of “a combination of too much pressure and lack of a speak-up culture.”

Among other changes, Volkswagen has created a whistle-blower system so that employees can report possible wrongdoing without fear of reprisal. Volkswagen also delegated more responsibility to lower-level managers in an effort to become less hierarchical.

Court documents indicate that some Volkswagen engineers were uneasy about the illegal software, but none approached authorities until shortly before the cheating came to light in September 2015.

During official emissions tests, the software activated pollution controls so that the car appeared to be clean. During everyday driving, those controls were scaled back to protect the engine. As a result, Volkswagen diesel passenger cars spewed more harmful nitrogen oxides than a long-haul truck.

Volkswagen strives to be more ethical, but the competitive pressures in the auto industry have only become more intense. Mr. Diess acknowledged that he had to be careful not to push subordinates so hard that they crossed ethical boundaries.

“This is a crucial point,” he said. “We have to be ambitious. We have to be competitive. We have to push for results. But we have to find a balance.”

He noted that Volkswagen delayed by several months the market debut of the ID.3, Volkswagen’s first car designed to run on batteries, which is seen as a make-or-break vehicle for the company. The first deliveries to customers began this month.

The engineers who devised the illegal software in 2006 were desperately trying to make a deadline for the launch of new diesel models.


Credit…Nikita Teryoshin for The New York Times

Mr. Thompson’s final report frees Volkswagen managers in Wolfsburg from intense oversight as they try to survive a plunge in sales caused by the pandemic, and meet increasingly tough competition from Tesla, which is building a factory near Berlin.

The pandemic continues to cut deeply into sales in Latin America and some other markets, Mr. Diess said, though sales in China have largely recovered. There are still supply chain disruptions and other problems. “Things are working,” Mr. Diess said. “I wouldn’t call it normal.”

Over the past several years there were signs of friction at times between Mr. Thompson and the executives at Volkswagen, a German icon not used to being told what to do by American lawyers. Early in his tenure, Mr. Thompson pressured the company to dismiss managers who were under criminal investigation but continued to hold high-ranking positions. Volkswagen had argued that it could not fire the managers if they had not been convicted of crimes, but eventually relented.

There was also some tension over Volkswagen’s refusal to release some documents it said were relevant to pending lawsuits and therefore privileged. “We were able to work through that issue,” Mr. Thompson said.

The legal aftermath of the scandal continues to unfold. On Sept. 9, a court in Braunschweig, Germany, ruled that there was enough evidence to bring Martin Winterkorn, the former Volkswagen chief executive, to trial on charges related to the emissions cheating.

At the end of this month, a court in Munich will begin hearing evidence in the trial of Rupert Stadler, the former chief executive of Volkswagen’s Audi luxury car unit. Mr. Stadler is accused of continuing to sell cars with illegal software even after regulators in California and Washington uncovered the wrongdoing. He and several former Audi managers and engineers will be the first defendants to go on trial in Germany.

Mr. Winterkorn and Mr. Stadler deny wrongdoing.

Volkswagen continues to fight numerous legal battles stemming from the scandal. It has reached a settlement with most diesel owners in Germany, but some continue to pursue legal claims. The company also faces suits in Britain and other countries, as well as a civil complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States.

The S.E.C. accused Volkswagen of concealing the risks it was taking when it sold corporate debt to American investors even as it was manufacturing cars with illegal software. In August, Volkswagen won a significant legal victory in that case when a federal judge in California ruled that a large share of the claims were covered by an earlier settlement with the Department of Justice.

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The Pandemic Will Permanently Change the Auto Industry

FRANKFURT — Some automakers may emerge stronger, others too weak to survive on their own. Factories will shut down. The pressure to go electric could become more intense.

People may travel less now that they have discovered how much they can get done from home. Or they may commute more by car to avoid jostling with others on crowded buses and trains.

The auto industry was bracing for a brutal year even before the coronavirus idled factories, closed dealerships and sent sales into a free fall. Now, things are about to get really Darwinian: The industry is expected to realign in ways that could have a profound effect on the eight million people worldwide who work for vehicle manufacturers.

It took almost a decade for car sales in the European Union to recover from the recession that began in 2008. The United States market took about five years to bounce back, but sales have been flat since 2015. Explosive growth in China initially helped compensate, but the market has been in decline since 2018. As Volkswagen, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler and other companies slowly restart their assembly lines, people who work in the car business are beginning to ponder what the repercussions of this crisis will be.

“We shouldn’t be too optimistic and expect that in 2021 everything is going to go back to normal as if nothing happened,” Ola Källenius, the chief executive of Daimler, told reporters during a recent conference call. The pandemic, he said, “will probably have a huge effect on the economy and we have to prepare.”

Here’s a look at what to expect.

Credit…Samuel Aranda for The New York Times

Automakers worldwide had at least 20 percent more factory capacity than they needed before the coronavirus hit, analysts say. That idle manufacturing space cost them money without producing any profit. As sales plummet further, shutting down underused plants may be a matter of survival.

“Some of those big plants in Europe are going to really struggle,” said Peter Wells, director of the Center for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School in Wales. The going will be especially tough for the companies that make smaller cars, which tend to be less profitable, like Fiat, Renault or Volkswagen’s SEAT brand.

In Europe, it’s impossible to close a factory without labor strife and political resistance because so many jobs are at stake. Severance payments to workers and other costs can make it as expensive to shutter a plant as it is to build one.

“It’s about the politics more than the economics,” Mr. Wells said.

In an example of the kind of fights that may lie ahead, workers shut down a Nissan plant in Barcelona only two days after it opened in early May, demanding that the Japanese company commit to maintaining its presence in Spain.


Credit…Hendrik Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Sales of electric cars have been surprisingly resilient even as lockdowns gutted sales of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles.

In March, as much of Europe went into lockdown, car sales on the continent fell by more than half. But registrations of battery-powered cars surged 23 percent, according to Matthias Schmidt, an analyst in Berlin who tracks the industry.

In April, lockdowns caught up with electric cars, too, and their sales fell 31 percent, according to Mr. Schmidt’s estimate. But that was nothing compared with the total European car market, which plummeted 80 percent.

It is not clear whether the surge in electric car sales is a trend or a quirk. Many of the electric vehicles registered early this year had been ordered earlier, Mr. Schmidt said. Carmakers may have taken their time delivering cars that were bought in 2019 so the vehicles would help meet stricter European Union limits on carbon dioxide emissions that took effect in 2020.

Carmakers may not be as motivated to sell electric cars in coming months. They will be tempted to instead push S.U.V.s, which generate far greater profits and are easier to sell now that fuel prices have plunged.

Much will depend on government incentives and regulations. Europe and China are doing more to promote electric cars than the United States under the Trump administration. Battery-powered cars are still much more expensive than gasoline vehicles. In a recession, fewer people may be able to afford them without subsidies.

“Especially in this period, they are looking to sell the most profitable cars as long as they meet the targets,” Mr. Schmidt said.

The big unknown is whether the crisis will change the kinds of cars that buyers want. People may emerge with a greater appreciation for the cleaner air that was a side effect of the lockdowns. They may be more willing to invest in a vehicle that produces no tailpipe emissions.

“I was never able to breathe such clean air in Torino,” said Silvio Pietro Angori, chief executive of the Italian auto design firm Pininfarina, which is in the Italian automaking capital. “I think: ‘Wow, that is great. How can I keep it?’”


Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

Turmoil in the market could be good for electric car start-ups like Byton and Lucid, which have proliferated after Tesla showed it was possible to challenge the traditional carmakers. The start-ups have a chance to attack the market while the established companies are struggling.

“The spaces in the market might open up a bit,” Mr. Wells said. “Once the fractures start to emerge, things start to happen.”

For other challengers, the pandemic has been a huge setback. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, which threatened to make car ownership obsolete for urban residents, have suffered because everyone is staying home. The Silicon Valley companies that promised self-driving cars by 2020 are still years away, and the pandemic is interfering with the human road testing they need to perfect their technology.


Credit…Felix Schmitt for The New York Times

Few sectors get less love from investors than the old-line carmakers. Shares in Renault, for example, have fallen 70 percent in the last year, and the stock market values the company at just 5.7 billion euros, or $6.2 billion. (Billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Elon Musk are worth far more as individuals than Renault with its 180,000 workers and sales of 3.8 million cars last year.)

There may be one group of investors willing to overlook the high risk and meager profits of car making. Chinese investors could see rock-bottom valuations as an opportunity to get a foothold on the continent.

Geely Holding, a carmaker based in Hangzhou, set a precedent when it bought Volvo Cars from Ford in 2010. Geely also own 8 percent of Volvo AB, a Swedish truck maker that is separate from the car company. Geely’s chairman, Li Shufu, owns almost 10 percent of Daimler. The Chinese automaker BAIC Group owns another 5 percent of Daimler.

Further incursions by Chinese investors are certain to meet political resistance. Germany is expected to pass legislation making it easier to block foreign acquisitions. France has passed similar legislation, and has significant sway over Renault because it owns 15 percent of the shares.

But foreign investment might be welcome if it helps preserve jobs. Geely has revived Volvo Cars and the region around its home base in Goteborg, Sweden.


Credit…Michael Noble Jr. for The New York Times

Carmakers will face even more pressure to spread around the cost of developing electric cars and other new technologies. Existing partnerships, such as the one between Volkswagen and Ford Motor to develop autonomous driving software, could be expanded.

“It’s pretty likely that we will see former enemies or former competitors start to team up with each other,” said Axel Schmidt, a senior managing director at the consulting firm Accenture who focuses on the auto industry.

These alliances, though crucial, are tough to manage. Renault has struggled to overcome tensions with its longtime partner, Nissan.


Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The pandemic exposed just how interconnected the world is and how a factory closure in one part of the world can shut down an assembly line in a different hemisphere.

“What we are all learning, and I talk to a lot of managers and C.E.O.s in Germany, is that we all have to rethink our logistics and supply chains,” said Olaf Berlien, chief executive of Osram, a German maker of lighting products for autos and other uses.

“Because of the price pressure that we are all under, we took the cheapest provider wherever in the world it might have been,” Mr. Berlien said. “We undervalued the provider who was just around the corner.”

Others are not so sure that carmakers will be more willing to buy local. Mr. Källenius of Daimler said supply chains were already built to withstand disruption and had stood up well during the crisis. Not a single Mercedes went unbuilt because of a supply chain problem, he said.

“I wouldn’t come too quickly to the conclusion that we have to regionalize supply chains,” Mr. Källenius said. “The globalization that we have achieved in the last 20 years has led to enormous productivity gains. I would see it as a mistake to back away from that.”

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Daimler, Stretched by Diesel Fines and Technology Shift, Records a Loss

FRANKFURT — The German carmaker Daimler slipped into the red at the end of 2019, battered by the cost of developing electric cars and by penalties from diesel emissions cheating.

The collapse of profit, which Daimler had warned about last month, exemplifies the challenges facing the German car industry, which may be serious enough to push the country into recession. Vehicles are the country’s biggest export, as well as an important part of the national identity.

The quarterly loss of 11 million euros, or $12 million, was relatively small compared to a profit of €1.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018. But it puts Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks, in a weak position as it confronts the economic consequences of the coronavirus in China.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.