The automotive industry is on the brink of a major upheaval due to the arrival of electric vehicles. Not only cars, also delivery vans, trucks, buses – you name it. After the automotive industry tried to pretend for years that nothing serious was going on, it is now increasingly clear that change is unavoidable, and may come much faster than many think. There is presently a lot of arguing and sweating in the board rooms. Some will take right decisions, some will take wrong. Some well-known car companies may survive and prosper – others may disappear ingloriously in the coming years. But change will come.
Thorbjørn Waagstein, Economist, PhD, since 1999 working as international Development Consultant in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Electric vehicles are presently ridiculously expensive. Could be the cost of the battery, couldn’t it? That is only part of the explanation. The other is scale: the production volume is too low to secure economies of scale. And to this comes a lack of competition: existing car producers are not really interested in selling quantities, as they will cannibalize their own profitable traditional car business. The answer is regulation and more competition. Not more subsidies.
We have just seen a flurry of new reports on Climate Change, and they are not funny reading. Before we fall into gloom and accept that the end is nigh, the good news is that with what we already know and the instruments we have at hand, it is absolutely within our reach to avoid the worst climate change scenarios, and the cost is absolutely not scaring. But it needs bold and determined policies and willingness to take risks. The lack of capacity for this is the biggest risk we are facing.
China is no longer a low-wage economy. To avoid being caught in a trap where its products are neither really cheap, nor really good, it wants to go upmarket, moving from low-tech standard products to high-tech, high-value products. This is what the strategy “China 2025” is about, supported by big government funding. Is this a legitimate strategy, or is it unfair competition? The US thinks the latter and is determined to do what it can to stop it. But they are unlikely to succeed.
The spectacular arrest in Canada of the chief financial officer from Chinese telecom giant Huawei follows on the heels of the US punishing another Chinese telecom company, ZTE, earlier this year. The argument is that these companies have violated the US sanctions against Iran. But this is a much deeper conflict and of existential importance for both the US and China and the consequences are far-reaching. How far is the US willing to go to prevent China from becoming a technological great power?
Foreign Affairs named in 2011 Russia “The dying bear”, pointing to the country’s high mortality and the low fertility. “Russia's economy doesn't produce anything that anybody wants to buy, except oil, gas and arms”, said ex-president Obama at his final news conference in 2016. “Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat than Isis”, according to Senator and ex-presidential candidate John McCain, And according to the actor Morgan Freeman, the US is now at war with Russia. But then everything should be fine. Russia is on its way down the drain. No people left, a useless economy, finished. Or are they once again underestimating their declared enemy?