German carmakers have high hopes that U.S. consumers will turn to diesel-powered vehicles in a big way.
"We are setting trends with the most advanced, cleanest and most efficient diesel engines," said Matthias Wissmann, president of the VDA, the German automakers' association.
Wissmann spoke with Henning Krogh, a staff reporter with Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News.
Q: What do you expect from this year's Detroit auto show?
A: The U.S. market is on a growth course for 2011. The Detroit show will show that the German auto industry is continuing to expand its presence in this very important market. German manufacturers are igniting a fireworks of innovation in Detroit. The premium brands -- Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche -- are presenting exciting new models. Furthermore, Volkswagen is arriving with a car especially developed for the U.S. market.
North America is extremely important for German carmakers. Do they have the right products for the short term and midterm?
The most important yardstick is how market share develops. For six years in a row, German automakers have gained about 0.5 percent a year in market share for light vehicles.
For passenger cars, we have reached a market share just below 12 percent. Everything points to the fact that we can continue on this successful path. And this year the new Volkswagen factory in Tennessee will start production, adding one more German manufacturer with its own assembly plant in the U.S. We have great potential in the North American market.
In California, the nitrous oxides limit may again be tightened. What consequences could that have for German automakers?
We are setting trends with the most advanced, cleanest and most efficient diesel engines. Technologies for the after-treatment of the exhaust gases are part of this. And we are offering a worldwide-leading technology in the form of the reactant AdBlue.
Our hope, overall, is that opportunities will open up for the clean diesel's slow market penetration of the classic gasoline-engine market in the U.S. We still must bring an important argument to a broader American public: You can save about 25 percent on fuel economy compared to a conventional gasoline model. We are clearly a technological leader with the overall concept of the "clean diesel."
What are your expectations for U.S. light-vehicle sales in 2011?
The U.S. market can probably reach 13 million.