At the opening of the IAA in Munich on Tuesday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) praised the innovative ability of German car manufacturers and suppliers. “The competitiveness of the auto industry in Germany is beyond question,” said Scholz, referring to the many Chinese automakers who are appearing at the auto show for the first time and now also want to gain a foothold in Germany. He did not respond to the criticism of the car industry and its association president Hildegard Müller in Germany.

“The weekend also showed me personally: As nice as jogging is, for some distances it’s better to take the car,” joked the Chancellor. He fell while jogging and now wears a black eye patch.

Protests are part of the democratic debate

After the opening ceremony, Scholz started a two-hour tour of the exhibition halls to see the future projects of German car manufacturers and suppliers. Chinese car manufacturers were not on his agenda, but the Chinese battery manufacturer Catl, which has a plant in Erfurt.

The environmental organization Greenpeace disrupted the tour. Three of their activists climbed onto cars and a table at the BMW stand and raised banners that read “The party is over” as BMW CEO Oliver Zipse showed the chancellor a vehicle. After a short period of unrest, the official program continued. Later there was a similar campaign at Mercedes-Benz.

Such protests are “part of a public democratic debate,” said Scholz. In view of the e-cars on display, however, they are “a little anachronistic”. The Mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter (SPD), had already criticized at the opening ceremony that refusing discussion and “exhausting yourself to media-savvy protests” was the wrong way to go. There is only more climate protection with the car industry, not against it. In Munich alone, tens of thousands of jobs depended on the auto industry.

Too much bureaucracy in Germany

VDA President Müller expressed her concern about Germany as a location and a gradual shift of investments abroad: “We want to invest here. But the conditions have to be right for that.” However, taxes, levies and energy prices are no longer internationally competitive, and new regulations are constantly being added from Brussels and Berlin. The companies mainly generate profits abroad. The USA and China, on the other hand, supported their companies and unleashed the forces of innovation with less bureaucracy and more freedom of technology, said Müller.

Scholz, on the other hand, praised Germany as a location and was optimistic about the German auto industry: “Competition should spur us on, not frighten us.” His goal remains to have 15 million electric cars on the road in Germany by 2030 and to have set up “one million charging stations”.

The Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) criticized that the federal government’s reduction in purchase premiums for e-cars was wrong. Addressing radical car opponents, he said: “I think it’s smarter to solve problems with your brain than with glue.” Larger countries like Bavaria are unimaginable without a car. The future of the car should take place in Germany and continue to create prosperity.

The networking of the various modes of transport is an important topic at the fair. Hollywood actress Natalie Portman also came to the stage at a forum on the topic. Portman has promoted more climate protection in the USA and also speaks about it at the trade fair in Munich.

Extinction Rebellion with protest action

Further protests in front of the exhibition center did not significantly affect the event. Attac activists symbolically burned a one and a half meter high 1.5 degree sign late in the afternoon to protest against the climate-damaging effects of car traffic. Two activists with masks represented Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) and the German car companies, who set the 1.5 degree symbol on fire. They were accompanied by activists with a poster saying “Don’t burn our future: traffic change now.”

Shortly thereafter, Extinction Rebellion launched another action directly in front of the main entrance of the fair, which, unlike Attac’s, was not announced. Seven activists climbed into one of the large pools of water in front of the entrance and let out black smoke. On their posters, the activists, some of whom were smeared with black paint, called for the IAA to be scrapped or blocked. They also criticized, among other things, the mining of lithium and multi-ton SUVs. The police were on site, but largely left the activists alone.

Further protests have been announced for the end of the week. The Last Generation group has been blocking streets in Munich for some time. On Tuesday, two of your actions were largely stopped by the police. According to the police, 29 activists from the group were in custody as of Tuesday afternoon.