VW sales increase by almost three percent for July

Germany's Volkswagen, Europe's biggest automaker, said Friday its July sales rose 2.9 percent to 572,200 vehicles worldwide.

VW sales increase by almost three percent for July
Photo: DPA

In the seven-month period from January through July, the VW group sold more than four million vehicles, the first time it has made that many, it added.

“After a very successful first six months we got off to a good start in the second half of the year,” VW sales director Christian Klingler said in a statement.

But the 12-month increase in July was off the pace of the preceding six months and Klingler said beating the competition in the coming months “will be a challenge, given an operating environment that is again becoming difficult.”

VW also would not regain this year the levels seen prior to the global economic crisis, Klinger said.

The group’s fortunes mirror those of Germany as a whole as Europe’s biggest economy posted stellar second quarter growth of 2.2 percent on Friday, in part owing to strong auto exports.

It was the country’s best quarterly result since east and west Germany were reunified in 1990.

By 2018, VW, which also owns the Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat and Skoda brands among others, aims to surpass Toyota as the world’s biggest automaker.

A key part of the plan is China, the group’s biggest market and where deliveries in the first seven months of the year jumped 42.2 percent to 1.11 million.

For Asia as a whole, VW posted growth of 42.3 percent to 1.23 million units.

A breakdown of the seven-month results showed the VW brand was still the biggest by far, with sales of 2.62 million passenger cars, an increase of 14 percent.

Audi, which provides the lion’s share of VW profits, saw a 17.4 percent hike in sales to 646,300 vehicles and “reached new delivery records” in China and the United States.

Even the group’s weakest brand Seat reported a 2.3 percent increase in sales that included a “very gratifying” increase in its home market of Spain.

In VW’s domestic market, group sales slumped 29 percent, however, with weak deliveries “strongly influenced by the effects of the scrapping premium last year” that had given business a shot in the arm.

Western Europe excluding Germany saw sales gain 18.4 percent to 1.15 million vehicles.

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From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla’s giant Berlin car factory

In the green forest outside Berlin, a David and Goliath-style battle is playing out between electric carmaker Tesla and environmental campaigners who want to stop its planned "gigafactory".

From lizards to water, eco-bumps snag Tesla's giant Berlin car factory
Tesla's gigafactory outside the doors of Berlin. dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

“When I saw on TV that the Tesla factory was going to be built here, I couldn’t believe it,” said Steffen Schorch, driving his trusty German-made car.

The 60-year-old from Erkner village in the Berlin commuter belt has become one of the faces of the fight against the US auto giant’s first European factory, due to open in the Brandenburg region near Berlin in July.

“Tesla needs far too much water, and the region does not have this water,” said the environmental activist, a local representative of the Nabu ecologist campaign group.

Announced in November 2019, Tesla’s gigafactory project was warmly welcomed as an endorsement of the “Made in Germany” quality mark – but was immediately met with opposition from local residents.

Demonstrations, legal action, open letters – residents have done everything in their power to delay the project, supported by powerful
environmental campaign groups Nabu and Gruene Liga.

Tesla was forced to temporarily suspend forest clearing last year after campaigners won an injunction over threats to the habitats of resident lizards and snakes during their winter slumber.

READ MORE: Is Germany’s Volkswagen becoming ‘the new Tesla’ as it ramps up e-vehicle production?

And now they have focused their attention on water consumption – which could reach up to 3.6 million cubic metres a year, or around 30 percent of the region’s available supply, according to the ZDF public broadcaster.

The extra demand could place a huge burden on a region already affected by water shortages and hit by summer droughts for the past three years.

Local residents and environmentalists are also concerned about the impact on the wetlands, an important source of biodiversity in the region.

Tesla Street

“The water situation is bad, and will get worse,” Heiko Baschin, a spokesman for the neighbourhood association IG Freienbrink, told AFP.

Brandenburg’s environment minister Axel Vogel sought to play down the issue, saying in March that “capacity has not been exceeded for now”.

But the authorities admit that “the impact of droughts is significant” and have set up a working group to examine the issue in the long term.

The gigafactory is set to sprawl over 300 hectares – equivalent to approximately 560 football fields – southwest of the German capital.

Tesla is aiming to produce 500,000 electric vehicles a year at the plant, which will also be home to “the largest battery factory in the world”,
according to group boss Elon Musk.

In a little over a year and a half, swathes of coniferous forest have already been cleared to make way for vast concrete rectangles on a red earth base, accessed via the already iconic Tesla Strasse (Tesla Street).

German bureaucracy

The new site still has only provisional construction permits, but Tesla has been authorised by local officials to begin work at its own risk.

Final approval depends on an assessment of the project’s environmental impact – including the issue of water.

In theory, if approval is not granted, Tesla will have to dismantle the entire complex at its own expense.

But “pressure is being exerted (on the regulatory authorities), linked to Tesla’s significant investment”, Gruene Liga’s Michael Greschow told AFP.

In early April, Tesla said it was “irritated” by the slow pace of German bureaucracy, calling for exceptions to the rules for projects that help the environment.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier agreed in April that his government “had not done enough” to reduce bureaucracy, lauding the gigafactory as a “very important project”.

Despite Germany’s reputation for efficiency, major infrastructure projects are often held up by bureaucracy criticised as excessive by the business community.

Among the most embarrassing examples are Berlin’s new airport which opened last October after an eight-year delay and Stuttgart’s new train station, which has been under construction since 2010.

Brandenburg’s economy minister, Joerg Steinbach, raised the possibility in February that the Tesla factory could be delayed beyond its July planned opening for the same reason.

SEE ALSO: Tesla advertises over 300 jobs for new Gigafactory near Berlin