How Electric Cars Threatens Over 800,000 Auto Workers

German ingenuity is responsible for the modern automobile industry. Their work on the combustion engine has led to our ability to drive across continents with comfort and speed.

But the world is changing, and so too is the automobile industry. As the world transitions to electric cars, over 800,000 auto workers in Germany are wondering where their future fits in with this updated vision of transportation.

BMW Plans to Eliminate Numerous Design Options

After experiencing a 10% slump in profits, BMW has laid out a plan that will impact thousands of workers. Beginning in 2021, the automaker plans to cut up to 50% of its drivetrain options for new models. Billions are being spent on efficiency campaigns so that the transition to electric vehicles isn’t as challenging.

The only component of the industry being left behind are the workers. As of 2019, only about 30% of BMW’s workforce has received training on handling electric vehicles.

Battery cells are the most expensive component in this new approach to making automobiles. Even the manufacturers that make electric cars today put together their own battery packs, but they outsource cell assembly to someone else.

Producing battery packs is very different than the work needed to assemble an engine. Robots perform the diagnostics and do the cleaning before putting cells into their metal casing. As automation continues to increase, the number of available positions for workers keeps decreasing.

What Is Driving the Change of Emphasis in Germany?

Germany has been at the forefront of climate change leadership, but it is the global effort to create a post-combustion world that is forcing companies like BMW to look at how they structure factory-based jobs.

China is the largest market in the world for electric vehicles today. They are using a mix of subsidies and robust regulations to force automakers to produce cars that run on batteries and customers to drive them.

Europe is tightening the targets set in place for carbon dioxide reduction across the planet. This action is causing Volkswagen to accelerate its emphasis on electric cars, with the expectation that this category will represent 40% of sales by 2030. Three plants in Germany are already set to retool to only make battery-powered cars.

Workers already see the number of available jobs slipping away as efficiency gains and automation has changed the industry in recent years. Over 75,000 jobs related to transmissions and engines are expected to be obsolete within a decade, and electrification in the auto industry will only create about 25,000 new positions.

What can people do to fight these changes? Workers can train to be around high-voltage components now so that their experience is already in place when the changeover occurs. Modernization is coming, so those that recognize the changes early will have the best chances for work in the future.