The chancellor called on the auto industry to put more effort into research and investment into electric vehicles. Germany's automotive industry chief said more regulations were not the answer to sustainable travel.
Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the International Motor Show Germany (IAA) on Thursday, with an address highlighting the "Herculean task" that lay before the auto industry in trying to create more sustainable travel.
"High mobility will have its price, if more efficient, climate-friendly vehicles are not manufactured," she said, calling the European climate targets set for 2030, a "huge challenge."
To meet this challenge is, as the chancellor put it, "a Herculean task, for you and for us," before adding the "no reduction in CO2 from the total volume of traffic has been achieved" since 1990.
She spoke briefly on the subject of Dieselgate, saying that consumers simply did not believe car companies any more when they claimed to produce more sustainable vehicles.
Merkel urged the car industry to invest more resources into producing affordable and sustainable electric cars.
"We are still a long way from having 100 percent renewable energy," she said.
Frankfurt mayor nixed over critical speech
Bernhard Mattes, the president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), also spoke of the "most profound transformation our industry has ever had to overcome."
"Yes, too many vehicles in a city affects our quality of life through noise, fumes, and by taking up space," he said, however, he went on to rebuff the idea of imposing more climate regulations on the auto industry. He said talk of bans, such as a ban on SUVs some politicians have called for, endangered "the acceptance and thus the success of the transformation." He said innovation, not regulation, would be the key to a greener auto industry.
Read more: Carmakers need SUVs more urgently than we do
Public distrust and disinterest were visible at the IAA this year. The annual event in Frankfurt attracted 1,000 exhibitors last year, but that number was down to 800 this year, and the show had to be held in a smaller event hall. Media attention was also focused more on protesters demonstrating against the auto industry than on the event.
Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann had been due to give a speech at the event, but sources have told the German press that he was uninvited after IAA organizers discovered he planned to be highly critical in his remarks.
es/sms (dpa, Reuters)