Bernd Gottschalk has stepped down as head of the influential German automotive industry association (VDA), following internal pressure that blamed him for the organisation's inability to deliver on its climate change pledges.
Gottschalk, the VDA's longest-serving president, resigned over the question of how to market low CO2 cars and communicate progress in the production of "green" technologies. After major German carmakers had stated in the leading German magazine "Der Spiegel" that they would no longer support him as their spokesman on climate change issues, he declared his sudden resignation on 9 March. His leave may be the first time a senior executive has been forced to resign over environmental issues.
--image1--The way forward
The organisation is now looking for a successor with clear communication and leadership skills in the CO2 debate. Given that German carmakers are facing mandatory EU-wide CO2 emission limits of 120 g/km by 2012, the new candidate will have to transmit clear pro-environmental messages in the on-going political and public discussions. Former chief executives from VW, Mercedes and BMW have already refused the post. The influential environmental organisation "Deutsche Umwelthilfe" (DUH) has suggested former Ford and VW board member Daniel Goeudevert who was responsible for developing innovative environmental vehicle concepts during the 1990s.
"I have in no way neglected my responsibilities in the CO2 debate," defended Gottschalk himself shortly after his resignation.
While Hermann-Josef Vogt, board member of the German transport club VCD, commented on Gottschalk being the "scapegoat" for an automotive industry that has failed to produce environmentally friendly vehicles, the German Green party called on the VDA to use this opportunity for a change of course towards consequent climate protection.
The VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie) represents more than 580 companies and 750,000 employees in the automotive and supplier industry in Germany. As a representative of major automotive manufacturers, VDA's positions have a Europe-wide impact. This resignation and the new appointment are thus a key move towards delivering more concrete results in CO2 emissions reductions from the automotive industry.