Editorials on Friday comment largely on two pieces of economic news in Germany: Volkswagen's latest woes and a plan by the Social Democrats to penalize companies if they don't offer training positions for young people.
The Märkische Zeitung from the eastern German city Frankfurt on the Oder asked: "What on earth is happening to Volkswagen? Miserable results, cutting jobs, lowered market shares, huge over-capacity -- and the new model of the Golf hardly jumped out of the starting gate. The company has kept on raising prices, which normal citizens can't afford." Meanwhile, Volkswagen has not been innovative -- French and Japanese car companies have come up with new ideas much more quickly. The paper criticized the current leadership at VW for putting money into luxury cars that didn't generate sales.
The Regensburg-based Mittelbayrischer Zeitung identified two problems at Volkswagen: questionable models and problematic prices. These higher prices were supposed to be justified by VW'S better reputation and higher quality than its competitors. "In English," the paper wrote, "Volkswagen means people's car, and as long as the people's income can keep up with the car company, Volkswagen can remain a people's car. But now the people have fallen behind the car," the paper quipped.
The editors of Düsseldorf's Handelsblatt found it telling that Abu Dhabi has now offered to buy a major share of Volkswagen, when VW is weak. Currently there is a law in place which protects any shareholder from buying up more than 20 percent of the company, but the paper offered a better solution to prevent hostile takeovers: "improve the company. That will raise the price of the stock."
German papers mostly like the so-called "pact for training" from the head of a major German industrial organization. The plan would offer voluntary co-operation between companies, unions and the government to ensure enough job training positions for young people, but the editorials don't like the insistence from Social Democratic Party leader Franz Müntefering that, regardless of whether the pact succeeds or fails, the government should pass a law penalizing businesses that don't offer training positions.
The General-Anzeiger from Bonn admits that, in principle, "it should be possible to get enough training positions in Germany without governmental intervention." But the paper pointed out that it hasn't worked out that way: "the problem with training positions has always bee that there's a good number of unfilled spaces, and at the same time a demand for professions where there's not enough positions are available. The situation had always improved when the government made threats."
The Financial Times Deutschland called any possible training position law a "bureaucratic monster" that would be "expensive, inefficient, and ineffective." The voluntary "pact for training", however, while not a perfect solution, would be sensible, the paper wrote.
The Rhein-Neckar Zeitung from Heidelberg is skeptical, however, that the Social Democrats will really give the pact a chance. Not because Müntefering believes that a law would be the most effective, but because, the paper says, "if he doesn't put the law through, he'll end up looking bad for having supported it earlier. "