Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Pope Francis slaps the Bishop of Bling gently on the wrist

October 23, 2013

A temporary suspension from his episcopal duties and a 3 month paid vacation is about all that Pope Francis could impose on the rich and powerful Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz van Elst.

The Bishop of Bling was summoned to the Vatican to be chastised for his extravagance and was even forced to travel by the modern equivalent of travelling on an ass. He flew Ryan Air!!

But he’s come out of it pretty well. No long drawn out trial. Just a 20 minute chat with the Pope. No inquisition or torture. He probably was not even shown the instruments. No hair shirts, no public penances, no washing of the feet of the poor in his diocese. (Mind you, the diocese is so rich they may not have many poor to speak of). No ceremonial unfrocking. Just a removal of his Bishop’s stole for a few weeks. It all seems very reminiscent of the high and the mighty being treated with kid gloves for their transgressions.

At which mountain resort he is going to spend his 3 month vacation has not been announced but I doubt if it will be uncomfortable or involve any “gardening leave”.

Pope Francis may have some new brooms but he will have to tread lightly when it comes to the traditional centres of power and wealth in the Church.

The Local (Italy): After private meetings with Pope Francis, a bishop who squandered millions on a luxury headquarters has decided to step down – for just three months – the Vatican confirmed on Wednesday.

Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz van Elst was summoned to the Vatican more than a week ago after reports of his enormous spending emerged at his new complex in western Germany emerged.

…. He met the Pope on Monday for a 20 minute discussion and on Wednesday the Vatican said: “The Holy See deems it appropriate to authorize a period of leave from the diocese for Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. The Holy Father has been continuously and objectively informed of the situation,” it said. A situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties.”

It is understood the bishop will resume his duties in three months and in the meantime the church is conducting an investigation into his spending at Limburg

Deutsche Welle:

 Limburg Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst shown taking off his stole. Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa

The Bishop of Bling – Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa

Vicar general Wolfgang Rösch from the neighboring city of Wiesbaden was named as the temporary caretaker for the bishop of Limburg’s diocese. Rösch had already been selected to become Limburg’s vicar general beginning January 2014.

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German Catholic Church (and the Bishop of Limburg) are wallowing in taxpayer’s money

October 18, 2013
Photo: DPA

Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Tebartz Van-Elst photo DPA (via The Local)

The excesses of the Catholic Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, have been much in the headlines. But what I  certainly had not realised was to the extent to which the Catholic Church in Germany is financed by public money.

It certainly seems to be a case of wallowing in a trough of taxpayer’s money – which the taxpayer cannot easily opt out of and which is subject to few controls.

The Bishop’s expensive habits catalogued here at The Local (Italy) include:

  1. a luxurious complex being built next to Limburg Cathedral in the state of Hesse. Earlier this week it emerged the costs had overrun by ten times the initial estimate from around €3 million to €31 million.
  2. €350,000 on built-in-wardrobes,
  3. €25,000 on a conference table 
  4. €783,000 on a garden
  5. his own apartment in the complex is costing €3 million with €478,000 going on furnishings (the bishop’s bathtub cost €15,000)
  6. guest rooms will cost €1.1 million
  7.  the new chapel costs €2.67 million

Jochen Riebel, the spokesperson for the diocesan finance council, told newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the bishop was “either a sophisticated deceiver or that he’s just plain sick.” 
A commission is being set up by the Catholic Church in Germany to investigate the spending. 
The bishop’s expensive tastes have landed him in the headlines before. He was criticized last year after magazine Der Spiegel revealed he flew first class to India to visit poor children.  
And on Thursday prosecutors claimed the bishop made false statements in affidavits submitted in two civil claims against Der Spiegel after the article appeared. They have now called for a punishment which could include fines

But it is the financing of the Catholic Church in Germany which is even less healthy than the Bishop. Another article in The Local (Italy) reports:

Limburg Cathedral Wikipedia

Its wealth has been estimated at €430 billion with interests ranging from television stations to mineral water. 

The €31-million bill for Franz-Tebartz Van-Elst’s residence, including €15,000 on a bath tub and €350,000 on built-in-wardrobes, has put the finances of the Catholic Church, much of which comes from taxpayers and state subsidies, into the spotlight.

Carsten Frerk, an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church in Germany, estimated its wealth at around €430 billion with about €140 billion of that in capital, theFrankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reported. Frerk researched the church’s ledgers for a year for a book published in October 2010. But only a small part of the church’s finances are public and many of their records remain secret.

Bild newspaper reported on Thursday the church was Germany’s second-biggest employer after the state, running everything from schools and kindergartens toTellux, the TV company which makes the Tatort crime drama.  It also makes money from its breweries and selling mineral water called Adelholzener. The church also owns ten banks, countless insurance businesses and 30 housing associations, Bild reported.  

The church’s largest public form of income is the “church tax”, a system whereby taxpayers register their membership of a church or religious group, and a percentage of their tax goes to that church. The tax dates back to the medieval tithes, a one-tenth share of goods collected by churches in the Middle Ages. …. The Catholic Church collected €5.2 billion in church tax in 2013, a 15 percent increase on 2000. But in order to keep up with inflation, it would have needed an increase of 22 percent. …….. it also receives a state subsidy every year, a throwback from a still-valid 1803 agreement between them and the government of the day. 

The subsidies paid to the Catholic and Protestant churches out of the treasury this year hit a record high of €481 million, €6.6 million more than in 2012, reported the Humanist Union of Germany (HVD). Alongside these benefits, the church enjoys exemption from corporation, trade, income and capital gains tax thanks to its status as an “organization of public rights.” Universities also have this status, but have their finances are partially controlled by the state, while the churches do not have this oversight.

….. The scandal has also led to some churches revealing the extent of their reserves. Cologne, the largest and reportedly richest diocese in Europe, said on Tuesday it had reserves of €166 million in 2012. The small diocese of Trier had a reserve of €84 million, Reuters reported. Tebartz-van Elst’s seat, in the small town of Limburg – with a population less than a thirtieth of Cologne’s – holds reserves of €100 million.

But no matter how enormously wealthy the Church is, the vulgarity of the Bishop of Limburg takes some beating.

 

Germany also has its “idiot” projects

October 17, 2013

Every country has its share of bizarre, wasteful and idiotic projects – usually paid for by the taxpayer. Most are just bungling though some are because certain politicians wish to favour a particular constituency or a particular contractor.

Bureaucrats in Germany are usually – from my limited experience – exceptionally rational. But Germany too has its share of “idiot” projects.  The “Black Book” is compiled by the German Taxpayer’s Alliance.

Some examples from The Local:

€435,000 was spent on building two bridges for field mice in In Bieberbach in the state of Baden-Württemberg. If the mice don’t use the bridge no-one can photo DPA

€435,000 was spent on building two bridges for field mice in Bieberbach. If the mice don’t use the bridge no-one can. photo DPA via The Local

  1. Two bridges for field mice in Biberach, Baden-Württemberg so that the animals can safely cross the road. The bridges alone cost around €435,000 and surveillance costs amounted to €35,000. They have not been built for human use.
  2. A memorial to the early years of Germany’s Autobahn built in a roadside lay-by in North Rhine-Westphalia. The remains of a concrete road bridge sat at the roadside of the A2 motorway but these had to be cleared for safety reasons. Rather than simply removing them, however, authorities built a memorial bridge from the remains one-and-a-half kilometres away in the lay-by. The bridge to nowhere cost €310,000 when removal would have cost €108,000. 
  3. Planners managed to spend €400,000 on a bicycle path which simply ended after 300 metres in the middle of nowhere.
  4. The German government also paid for a metal concert in China by the lesser-known German band “Drone”. Unfortunately “after the first few beats of the intro, it was clear that the Chinese were not into metal.”
  5. Costs of the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg have risen from €77 million to €800 million.
  6. Berlin’s new airport, meanwhile, is costing €162,000 a month just to keep clean, while its opening is continuously delayed.
  7. An operating theatre in Düsseldorf’s university hospital cost €200 million but three years on it has still not been used due to inadequate fire safety precautions. A further €2 million has been spent on paying cleaning, heating and other bills for the as-yet unused ‘Operative Medicine II’ clinic.
  8.  Authorities in the town of Meschede in North Rhine-Westphalia when they left the heating on in their empty offices for eight years. Nobody turned the radiators off when the offices were emptied in November 2000, racking up a bill of €42,000 for the taxpayer. 

German power play – silly EU CO2 rules for cars delayed at least till 2024

October 15, 2013

It’s the right decision of course. The proposal was for yet another one of the many EU rules where the benefits are doubtful and the implementation would have had no measurable effects on the desired outcome.

But entirely due to German protectionism for its performance car industry – and much to the disappointment of Ford – the limit of 95g of CO2 per km for any vehicle’s emissions has now been delayed at least till 2024!  Well Done Germany!

E 350 BlueTec

E 350 BlueTec

“The emissions limits are part of the EU’s drive to switch Europe to a low-carbon economy and slow the impact of climate change.”

The EU’s CO2 restrictions proposals for power plants and for aircraft and this one for cars are part of of a long line of  “feel-good” proposals which the Greens are so fond of — full of sound and idiocy, accomplishing nothing. So far the EU has not proposed any restrictions on CO2 in human breath.

Hopefully by 2024, the idiocy of CO2 restrictions will have been recognised.

BBC: 

The German government has persuaded its EU partners to delay introducing new limits on CO2 emissions from cars. Environment ministers agreed to revise a deal, reached in July, that set a limit of 95g per km for the average car. That target for CO2 emissions was to take effect in 2020.

But Germany, famous for its high-performance cars, says the 95g limit should not take full effect until 2024. 

Green activists deplored the new delay as a “shameful sop” to polluters.

A leading German Green Party MEP, Rebecca Harms, accused Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel of “riding roughshod” over the EU’s democratic process, because the 2020 agreement had already been reached between the European Parliament and the Council – the EU ministerial grouping.

“Weakening the agreed 2020 limits, which have long been known, is a shameful sop to German car manufacturers and will slow the development of new technologies to deliver more efficient and less polluting cars,” Ms Harms said after the ministers’ vote. …. 

The UK was among the countries that supported the German environment minister’s position on Monday, German ARD news reports.

The German minister, Peter Altmaier, said “it’s not a fight over principles but how we bind the necessary clarity in climate protection with the required flexibility and competitiveness to protect the car industry in Europe”.

Correspondents say there has been intense lobbying by luxury carmakers such as BMW and Daimler, maker of Mercedes, over the EU legislation.

The emissions limits are part of the EU’s drive to switch Europe to a low-carbon economy and slow the impact of climate change.

Oktoberfest is hardly over and snow arrives in Bavaria

October 11, 2013

Oktoberfest only ended last week and 20cm of snow has already fallen in Southern Germany. A few weeks earlier than “normal”. But not to worry. Global Warming is here. Climate models cannot be fooled by little things like local weather and reality.

snow in Bavaria, 11th October 2013 photo DPA

Snow in Bavaria, 11th October 2013 photo DPA

The Local: Winter has arrived in southern Germany with the first heavy snowfall hitting Bavaria on Thursday night and Friday morning. 

The snow caused traffic chaos in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area – a popular ski resort. Schools and kindergartens were closed, a police spokesman said on Friday, while authorities advised people to stay indoors.

Trees which have collapsed under the weight of the snow are also posing a danger for drivers and pedestrians. On one stretch of road out of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 15 trees blocked traffic. 

But the early winter weather also brought happier scenes with the first snowmen being built. Snow has also fallen in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg.

NoTricksZone reports:

Meteorologists warned us that snow was on the way and would fall below the 500 m elevation in southern Germany and elsewhere. Moreover, they warned us that this winter could be one of the worst in 100 years for Central Europe. ….. 

Online Die Welt here writes:

‘It began to snow in the Bavarian capital of Munich yesterday evening at about 6 p.m. Many of my meteorologist colleagues had believed this to be improbable,’ said meteorologist Dominik Jung: ‘This year winter has struck early and unusually severely. South of Munich up to 20 centimeters of snow was able to pile up.’”

Die Welt adds that schools have been closed in some localities, 22,000 households in Austria have lost power, trains have come to a standstill, and traffic has been in chaos.

Frost is expected to spread across southern and middle Germany this weekend, reports www.wetter.net,Temperatures down to -4°C are expected under clear skies in some local areas.

 

 

Angela Merkel triumphs – could even govern without the FDP?

September 22, 2013

Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU have made a very strong showing at over 42% and the exit polls are predicting that both the FDP and AfD (Alternative for Germany) will both miss the 5% threshhold and get no seats. But the FDP and the Greens are the big losers and the AfD are sending a clear anti-European message even if they get no seats.

Angela Merkel is only 2 or 3 seats away from having her own majority without any coalition partners.

The SPD are around 26% and the Greens are down to 8%.

This could give the CDU/CSU around 298 seats in the Bundestag. With the SPD at around 185 seats and the Greens at about 57 seats it is even conceivable that Angela Merkel could govern without any coalition partner dragging her down. It is highly unlikely that the SPD/Greens would call upon the 59 or so seats of the Far Left.

The tactical voting to help the FDP that I was half-expecting does not seem to have taken place.

The Greens will have little leverage.

The way is now clear for a slow reversal of the disastrous nuclear policy pushed by the Greens though Angela Merkel will have to be very dainty on her feet to make this U-turn.

Tactical voting in the German polls today?

September 22, 2013

Talking to some of my German friends over the last few days, I get the impression that there could be some tactical voting today.

German polls

German polls

The latest polls (via der Spiegel) give Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU 39% but their coalition partners the FDP are running close to the 5% barrier. The Green vote has come down to around 9% and the recent ballyhoo about their pro-vegetarianism, anti-car and pro-paedophilia positions could hurt them further. The dawning realisation that they have been most responsible for the very high cost of electricity that Germans are burdened with has probably been the underlying reason for their steady decline in the last few months. The far Left are also around 9% and their votes are probably solid especially in Eastern Germany where die-hard communists are still hankering for the “good old days”.

The anti-Euro AfD are running below the 5% barrier and it has been politically incorrect to show any support for them. They could spring a surprise and creep over 5% and that would lead to interesting times – especially if their success is allied with a weakening of the Greens. Paradoxically some of their far-right support could be enhanced by some support from the very far Left.

To get any kind of a comfortable right-of-centre coalition Angela Merkel needs the FDP. For the FDP to fall below 5% could lead to some unnecessary pressures. A Grand Coalition with the SDP is something to be avoided. And this leads to the possibility that some CDU-CSU voters will cast their primary vote for their CDU-CSU candidate but will give their second vote to the FDP party. While no single FDP candidate will be advantaged in winning their own seats, this tactical approach could ensure that the FDP gets close to 7 or 8%. The seats they win as a party could then be close to the number won by the Greens and could provide the cushion that Angela Merkel could be quite thankful for. Talking to my friends (2 CDU supporters and one SDP) I got the impression that

  1. in very strong CDU-CSU constituencies some of the second “party” vote could well go to the FDP, and
  2. in strong SDP constituencies, CDU-CSU voters could cast both their votes for the FDP.

Well, the results will be known in about 12 hours and Angela Merkel’s performance is almost a foregone conclusion. She will be returned for the 3rd time. It is the performance of the Greens, the FDP and the AfD which adds some spice and interest to an otherwise rather low key and almost “boring” election. But it is the very mundane nature of the election which – I think – reflects the mood in Germany and is Angela Merkel’s greatest advantage. She makes common sense and being “boring” virtues devoutly to be sought.

Germans no longer being taken in by Green propaganda

September 10, 2013

The German elections are less than 2 weeks away and the only real question is what Angela Merkel’s win will look like. Whatever the result she will not find it necessary to pay too much attention to the Greens. The German Green party peaked in support a few weeks after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear plant accident. They reached the height of 28% support for a few days in April 2011 and entertained hopes of becoming Germany’s 3rd party. But the euro zone financial crises have ccontinued since then. The German Energiewende is turning out to be an expensive catastrophe. More coal is being burnt today than before. Heavily subsidised solar and wind energy are destabilising the grid and not pulling their weight. German electricity prices are driving industries – and jobs – out of the country. Profligate Green policies adopted under Green pressure are being seen to be the reason. They are a problem rather than a solution to any existing problem.The Greens are currently polling at about 10% support. A long drop from the heady days of 2011.

As Der Spiegel puts it:

German consumers already pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. But because the government is failing to get the costs of its new energy policy under control, rising prices are already on the horizon. Electricity is becoming a luxury good in Germany … 

…. The political world is wedged between the green-energy lobby, masquerading as saviors of the world, and the established electric utilities, with their dire warnings of chaotic supply problems and job losses.

Even well-informed citizens can no longer keep track of all the additional costs being imposed on them. According to government sources, the surcharge to finance the power grids will increase by 0.2 to 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour next year. On top of that, consumers pay a host of taxes, surcharges and fees that would make any consumer’s head spin.

It is beginning to sink in with the German electorate that “feel good” politics of the Greens which achieves little and costs the earth is not sustainable. The electorate is beginning to resent being told what to do, how to live, what to eat and how to drive. To attack meat-eating and the driving of cars as the Greens have done seems particularly inept.

Reuters: 

Greens dream of power fading as German election nears

….. Like other Germans once attracted to the world’s most successful pro-environment party, Suska is now turned off by the Greens — and his defection helps explain a sudden drop in support before Germany’s September 22 election.

“The Greens have this ‘ecological dictatorship’ feeling about them now,” says Suska, 45. “I used to always vote Greens. But not anymore. No one likes to be told what to do. It feels like the Greens are going to make everything more expensive.”

Support for the Greens, which traces its roots to the peace movement of the 1970s, hit a high of 23 percent in 2011 after the Fukushima disaster in Japan boosted the appeal of its anti-nuclear message. Within weeks of the tragedy, the Greens stunned Chancellor Angela Merkel by winning control of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, long a conservative stronghold.

As recently as July, the party was polling a robust 15 percent, well above its 2009 result of 10.7 percent.

But over the past two months, the Greens have seen their support crumble to 10 percent, a four-year low. The collapse, in the most crucial phase of the campaign, appears to have doomed what faint hopes the party had of returning to power with the Social Democrats (SPD), with whom it ruled from 1998 to 2005.

… Much of the party’s fall in popularity can be traced to a series of self-inflicted wounds.

One big problem is the lin… gering suspicion the Greens want to tell people what to do: drive more slowly, take the bus, turn off lights, turn down the heat, ban large livestock farming.

Their light-hearted idea for a “Veggie Day”, where Germans would skip meat once a week, has been mocked in the media and by other parties. The rival Free Democrats (FDP) went so far as to organize a barbecue to annoy the Greens.

Proposals to cut city speed limits and put an upper limit on motorways have also alienated some supporters.

“Germans don’t have a sense of humor when it comes to cars and meat,” said Yvonne Seiler, a secretary and Greens backer.

Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said: “The Greens scare away a lot of voters and their ideas just don’t excite people anymore. People don’t understand their message.”

Der Spiegel again:

…. with the vote two-and-a-half weeks away, the picture is not nearly as rosy. A poll released Thursday found that just 10 percent of Germans intend to vote for the Greens on Sept. 22. It is the lowest survey result for the once popular party since way back in 2009.

…… One of the party’s central proposals in the current campaign, for example, has been that of raising taxes on high earners and introducing a 1.5 percent tax on assets of over €1 million as a way of increasing social justice. To be sure, many of the party’s core voters support such a proposal, despite being in the upper tax brackets themselves. But it seems poorly designed should the Greens be interested in getting their new supporters to actually cast a ballot for the party on Sept. 22. Other proposals have likewise fared poorly.

Specifically, the Greens have proposed the introduction of one vegetarian day each week in workplace cafeterias across the country. “A veggie day would be a great opportunity to see how we can nourish ourselves without meat and sausage,” senior Green politician Renate Künast told the tabloid Bild on Monday.

How long can Germany bear the cost of their Greens?

September 4, 2013

Less than 3 weeks to go for the German elections and the polls put Angela Merkel at 39% with the Social Democrats at 23%, the Greens at 11% and the Far Left at 10%. But polls have been wrong in German elections and sometimes spectacularly wrong:

Reuters:

Eight years ago Angela Merkel stared gloomily at the election results with disbelief when her party crashed to 35.2 percent of the German vote, seven points below the opinion poll forecast.

Her poll lead melted away again on election day four years later, though her conservatives stayed in power despite their worst result since 1949. Indeed her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have fallen short of forecasts in the last six elections.

They are leading again as the September 22 vote comes round, but that humbling record explains why Merkel is not letting up, with 56 campaign stops in the month before voters give their verdict.

The chancellor warns in her speeches that supporters will have a “rude awakening” if they place too much faith in polls.

Once highly accurate, voter surveys in Germany have become a less reliable barometer as party allegiances weaken, voter turnout falls, differences between parties disappear and small newcomers crowd the ballot sheet.

The success of the Greens and their profligate policies have been mainly due to the German electorate looking desperately for a “feel-good” factor. My 3 years living in Germany – in the heart of the “old” Eastern Germany – only convinced me that the normally very pragmatic Germans were extremely apprehensive and tentative about touting their undoubted economic successes. They feared to take too much pride in their achievements since it brushed perilously close to Nationalism and all the dark ghosts that evoked. The Green Party – I think – filled this need for somehow “feeling good” about their own achievements in a benign way while avoiding any of the sinister negatives associated with “national pride”.

But this has been an expensive experiment – in money and in jobs. How much longer the Green bubble will continue remains to be seen. It is fundamentally unsustainable and all over Europe it is beginning to penetrate that the cost of “feeling good” for no benefits is a luxury. But German common sense, pragmatism and realism will eventually prevail as the costs of “feeling good” become increasingly obvious.

The Local:

Higher renewable energy subsidies due to be introduced in October will add an extra €40 onto the annual energy bill for a three person household, wrote Der Spiegel magazine in a report published on Monday. 
The cost of supporting German producers of renewable energy is, under German law, passed on to the consumer. The cost per kilowatt hour of green energy is simply added onto their bills. 
Set every October for the following year, this year the cost is set to jump 20 percent from 5.3 cents per kilowatt hour to 6.5 cents, wrote the magazine. 
Perversely, the price hike is necessary because the electricity market is actually being flooded with cheap electricity, wrote the magazine. 
Germany’s green energy producers have been guaranteed fixed rates feed-in-tariffs for 20 years, while recently the electricity stock market price has fallen to its lowest value in years. 
This has led to a widening gap between the falling prices grid operators are able to sell electricity for on the market, and the fixed guaranteed prices they have to pay out to producers of renewable energy. The result is that consumers have to make up the difference.

And consumers can only take so much. My expectation that common sense will prevail is – to no small part – also dependent upon the Greens propensity for being silly. Many of the Greens’ policies are silly without initially being seen to be silly. But calls – by some Green leaders – for a ban on driving cars on weekends and by other Greens for the legalising of incest go beyond silly and enter the realms of “stupid”. It is beginning to dawn on the electorate that the Greens may be a luxury – in money, jobs and in ideas – that Germany can ill afford.

NoTricksZone:

German daily Die Welt writes that one of the leaders of Germany’s influential Green Party is now calling for a ban of car driving in Germany on weekends.

Die Welt writes:

Green parliamentary group leader Fritz Kuhn wants cars of German drivers to be idle on weekends. […] With a driving ban a clear signal against climate change would be made. According to estimates by Kuhn, the citizens would quickly notice, “that you can also get along without cars”.

Fritz Kuhn, the mayor of Stuttgart, cites a ban used in Northern Italy in 150 cities last Sunday in order to fight air pollution. People can use their bicycles or go by foot.

By now readers may be thinking that the German Greens want to ban everything. Though it seems to be that way, this is not true.

There are some things they want to legalize: incest for example. According to FOCUS magazine here:

The incest ruling by the European Court of Justice for Human Rights (EGMR) against a 34-year old man from Leipzig has led to controversial reactions. Green Party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele reacted the most sharply. He wants to permit sex between siblings and other close relatives, and is requesting doing away with the incest laws. It is an isolated relic of another time when adultery was punishable, which we also have done away with,’ Ströbele told news network N24. Paragraph 173 no longer matches ‘in this time of enlightened opinion on marriage and family. It must be abolished’.”

Volkswagen is streets ahead with its common, global, modular concepts

February 11, 2013

Volkswagen’s Modularer Querbaukasten (MQB) which translates to Modular Transverse Matrix is a concept for sharing core components in a strategy for modular construction of all its transverse, front-engined, front-wheel drive cars. VW has probably taken this further than any other car-maker and are being bench-marked and closely watched by Toyota, Ford and others.  MQB is designed to stretch from the Polo to the Passat. At the top end Porsche are developing a comparable MSB concept (Modular standard matrix). Apart from only one dimension that must be held, the modular concept allows most dimensions to be stretched.

Golf 7 chasis: MQB Flexibility

Volkswagen Group brands (Volkswagen, Audi, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche and more) comprise more than 200 individual models of cars. The complexity involved in trying to reduce costs and the number of components, meeting exceedingly strict emission and safety standards all the while reducing waste and consumption is obviously quite huge. MQB not only represents a new car specific part platform, but also an all-new modular engine program and modular production program. With MQB VW can build any vehicle from Polo to Mid-size SUV utilizing the same assembly line.

VW modular matrices

The MQB platform has a common engine mounting system and allows both petrol and diesel motors mounted in the same way and at the same angle of inclination. VW factories around the world could become multi-brand factories with VW’s, Seats, Skodas and even Audis to roll off the same line.

Reuter’s reports:

…. Since the heyday of Henry Ford and his Model T, the world’s automakers have considered the “global car” to be their Holy Grail – the same basic design that can be built, in subtle variations, and sold in different markets. 

Take that fundamental concept, stretch it across many different vehicle types, sizes and brands, then build them by the millions, and you begin to sense the enormity of Volkswagen’s rapidly evolving “mega-platform” strategy and its potential impact on competitors around the globe.

Auto engineer Hackenberg nurtured this bright idea for three decades, after early pitches to auto executives were largely ignored, until somebody finally bought it wholesale. The man who bit was Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn. …… 

The strategy is not without risk. It could, for instance, expose Volkswagen to the threat of a massive global recall if a single part, used in millions of cars, fails.

But rivals have taken note of the power behind its move. Volkswagen’s modular platforms are being benchmarked by most of the world’s top automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp and Ford Motor Co, according to company executives. ….. 

…. VW’s work on its largest mega-platform, known internally as MQB, began in earnest in 2007 and is being implemented over the next four years at a cost of nearly $70 billion, estimates Morgan Stanley. The potential payoff is compelling: Projected annual gross savings by 2019 of $19 billion, according to the bank, with gross margins approaching 10 percent.

The automaker is expected to announce a record profit for 2012 of more than $30 billion later this month (February 22), according to Bernstein Research, whose senior analyst, Max Warburton, observes: “VW looks to have unstoppable momentum — in China, the U.S., Europe and most of the rest of the world.”

Even before MQB was launched in 2007, VW was a leader in using interchangeable components:

At a gathering in Japan five years ago, Renault and Nissan executives lifted the hoods on several VW Group vehicles side by side — including models from Skoda, Seat and Audi brands — and saw trouble.

“They had the same engines, the same clutches, the same ventilation — all identical parts,” says an executive who attended the presentation. “It was a level of commonality that didn’t exist at Renault-Nissan.” 

After a six-year gestation, VW has just begun to implement its sophisticated and highly flexible platform with the deceptively simple label MQB, a German acronym for “modular transverse matrix.” Virtually all of the group’s small and medium front-wheel-drive family models, including the latest generations of the VW Golf and Audi A3, are being designed around MQB as their base.

The new platform features a far greater degree of plug-and-play modularity, flexibility and parts commonality than at Toyota, General Motors Co, Ford and other competitors.

MQB “could be the single most important automotive initiative of the past 25 years,” says Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Consulting in Northville, Michigan. “It really changes the game.”

With the new mega-platform strategy supporting its 12 brands, from spartan Skoda to Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini, VW is poised to snatch the global sales crown from Toyota as early as next year, according to investment bank Morgan Stanley.

VW envisions enormous leverage from MQB. The plan is to boost global sales to 10 million or more, with roughly two out of every three cars — some 40-plus models totaling 6.3 million sales a year — built on some variation of the MQB platform, according to U.S. research firm IHS Automotive.

None of VW’s competitors has the diversity of brands, the breadth of technology, the sweeping geographic footprint or the deep pockets necessary to support and take advantage of such a wide-reaching initiative as MQB.

Even Toyota, the current global sales leader, is playing catch-up with its German rival. … 


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