State of the Auto Industry

Should Stuttgart, “cradle of the automobile” and home to Mercedez-Benz, Porsche and Maybach, worry about the state of the auto industry and falling car sales across Europe? Photograph: Olivier Holmey

Should Stuttgart, “cradle of the automobile” and home to Mercedez-Benz, Porsche and Maybach, worry about the state of the auto industry and falling car sales across Europe? Photograph: Olivier Holmey

Car plants have been closing all across Europe over the past decade, and at a faster rate still since the financial crisis of 2008. In September, PSA Peugeot Citroen decided to lay off 8,000 employees and close a plant at Aulnay outside Paris. In October, Ford confirmed plans to close factories in both Belgium and Britain. Just this week, Fiat announced that it would be cutting 1,500 jobs in Poland.

Now Germany, home to the euro zone’s most vigorous manufacturing industry, seems to be hit as well. General Motors has announced that Opel’s plant in Bochum would close in 2016. Production of Maybach luxury cars by Daimler AG is also set to cease in 2013.

Yet these two setbacks do not reflect a greater ill in Germany’s auto industry, which is by and large proving more resilient than its European counterparts. Although car sales in Europe have fallen by 7.1% so far this year compared to 2011, the global demand for automobiles designed and produced in Germany has picked up significantly. Sales of Porsches in the US and China have increased by 70%. BMW, Audi and Mercedes are also performing well in emerging markets. The Stuttgarter Zeitung’s latest articles on the Bochum plant closure indicate no sign of growing apprehension over the fate of the auto industry. Stuttgart, heart of this sector, remains confident in its future prospects.

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