Mr. Duesmann, Mr. Rittersberger, how much is Putin's war changing the auto industry?

Christian Muessgens

Business correspondent in Hamburg.

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Henning Peitsmeier

Business correspondent in Munich.

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DUESMANN: Not much will change for us at Audi in relation to Russia alone, because it is a small market for our vehicles.

However, if you look at the volatility of the commodity markets, you can already see the price increases.

RITTERSBERGER: In the short term we can see disruptions on the raw materials markets, but in the medium and long term a balance will be reached again.

We are optimistic about that, despite all our concerns about the political situation.

The auto suppliers sound less relaxed than you.

DUESMANN: The war is less to blame for that than Covid.

The pandemic currently has the Chinese economy under control.

The suppliers suffer more from such impacts than we do.

Can you understand that suppliers are now demanding higher prices from manufacturers?

DUESMANN: I can understand that.

Inflation has also significantly increased costs for suppliers.

Manufacturers make billions in profits.

Are you ready to help?

RITTERSBERGER: We have already done that, for example with the wiring system suppliers who produce in the Ukraine.

There we helped to duplicate production in other countries, for example by financing the necessary second set of tools.

DUESMANN: We need a healthy supplier landscape.

Medium-sized suppliers also have to invest in electromobility and digitization, which is why we are always ready to talk to you!

How much does it cost the auto industry to become independent of oil, gas and coal from Russia?

RITTERSBERGER: This is a lengthy process for the auto industry as for many others.

But we are now in contact with all relevant parties, both authorities and network operators, and are preparing back-up solutions.

If there are disruptions, we could maintain operations at a certain level.

Can Audi prepare for a power cut?

RITTERSBERGER: That would be regulated by the energy suppliers, who in such a case would first switch off the high energy, then the large companies and then the medium-sized companies.

It is clear that we have to get out of fossil fuels, and quickly.

Audi wants all production sites to be CO2-neutral by 2025, so we are already investing in wind power and photovoltaics anyway.

However, we cannot operate a plant solely through self-sufficiency, that is only possible through networking.

Are you now installing a few more wind turbines in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm?

DUESMANN: We're looking at that right now, but it doesn't happen that quickly in this country due to the long approval process.

In our plant in Győr, we already operate the largest roof-top photovoltaic system in Europe and have already made the site CO2-neutral on the balance sheet.

We now have to reinforce such measures at the other locations, and we are already taking stock of this.

Every energy-intensive company is well advised to make itself independent of public electricity.

What lessons do you draw from the consequences of the Ukraine war for your current China policy?

DUESMANN: China is a completely different case!

We have been represented in the country for 30 years and have close partners that we value.

Unlike Russia, China is heavily involved in global trade and is probably not seriously concerned with decoupling itself from this global system.

As a result, the People's Republic, as a strongly export-oriented country, would do the most harm to itself.

RITTERSBERGER: We have made far-reaching decisions in China and will be building the majority of our battery electric vehicles for the Chinese market there with our partner FAW from the end of 2024.

We're going to continue with that.

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