German cars are in big demand worldwide – and so are the skilled workers who build them. Following a wave of massive cuts during the global economic crisis, the nation's biggest automakers are hiring again.
Full order books require fully-manned assembly lines
Automobile manufacturers that trimmed their workforces to the bone over the past few years are hiring once again amid a rise in demand.
"Our cars are in such demand worldwide that we will hire more than 10,000 new employees this year – 4,000 in Germany alone," Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said in an interview with German newspaper Bild.
The German auto giant, which owns the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands and is a world leader in heavy trucks, has big expansion plans.
Skills in big demand
"China, India and other heavily populated countries are discovering the automobile," Zetsche said. "We have to be there to respond to the demand. But we also need German sites because many motors and parts come from here."
Gone are the days, however, when simply manning an assembly line was reason enough to keep a good manufacturing job. Carmakers are looking for highly skilled workers.
Daimler plans to recruit 500 new university graduates, 400 engineers and computer specialists, and more than 2,000 skilled apprentices in Germany alone.
Daimler CEO Zetsche is back in the hiring business
Volkswagen is also hunting for talent. The company recently agreed to hire 2,200 temporary workers to keep its production humming in Germany.
The carmakers' decisions to beef up their workforces follow years of rigorous job-cutting.
In 2005, some 8,500 jobs were axed in the sector, followed by an additional 5,000 a year later, according to Willi Dietz, director of the Auto Research Institute (IFA) at the University Nürtingen-Geislingen.
Despite the announced hiring plans, Dietz warns that the auto sector is unlikely to become the "job machine" it once was.
"With every new model, we're seeing productivity increases of 15 to 20 percent, so fewer people will be needed to make certain cars," he said in an interview with the German broadcaster ZDF.
"I don't think we will see significant long-term growth in the German auto sector because the growth will be in other markets, especially Asia."
Nearly 700,000 people are currently employed in Germany's auto industry.
Author: John Blau
Editor: Sam Edmonds