German engineering is synonymous with quality and prestige. On the whole, german cars have a deserved reputation for luxury: the cars made in the country tend to last for longer, run better, and be more pleasant to drive.
How does the German auto industry compare?
The industry makes up around 5% of the country’s GDP, and employs around 820,000 people. Names like Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen have carried the flag for the country, such that just about everyone recognises it for quality. While there may be countries which create more cars overall, it’s Germany where we find a concentration at the top end of the market. That isn’t to say you have to pay over the odds for a German car; you can pick up a used Volkswagen in London for a relative pittance.
In 2019, the country produced around 4.7 million cars. While this figure declined significantly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it remains a heavyweight in the global automotive industry.
What makes German cars better?
There are several reasons behind the success of Germany’s motor industry.
The first and most obvious stems from the country’s history in engineering. The earliest cars ever devised were created in this part of Europe, and many of the biggest names in the country got their start in the 1920s. Karl Benz, who went on to create Mercedes Benz, is widely thought to have created the first ever internal-combustion-engine powered automobile, back in 1885. Germans have been pushing the art of motoring design forward ever since then.
We should also consider the impact of motorsport, which has helped to develop a number of innovations that have eventually found their way into ordinary road cars. Four-wheel drive, ABS, regenerative braking – they all got their start in F1. Germany is home to a thriving motorsport culture, which exemplified by the famous Nürburgring complex, where many of the most prestigious manufacturers test their new prototypes under race conditions.
It’s important not to overlook the role of marketing to the country’s reputation. We tend to assosciate Germany with motoring, and thus those with an interest in the industry tend to move to the country. Just about every major manufacturer has a slogan built around technology, and a reputation to match. If you’re looking for a career in engineering, in other words, it’s difficult to look beyond the country. This is reflected in the abundance of colleges and universities on offer in Germany.
Finally, it’s worth looking at the support given to the industry by the German government. The industry as a whole received subsidies of around €12bn. German businesses are supported in buying cars for their fleets. This comes in the form of VAT and depreciation write-offs, which ultimately help to drive demand for the industry, keeping it bouyant and allowing it to invest more in research and development.