Alexander Dobrindt said that "electromobility will be the future" but argued it's not yet clear what form it will take and when that will be. "I don't think it makes much sense to talk today about being able to bury the combustion engine," he added. "We still have a technological decision ahead of us."
Germany is home to auto powerhouses including Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW. The industry is currently looking for a way out of persistent troubles over excessive diesel emissions, and the government is hosting a meeting with auto bosses next week to discuss ways to reduce them.
It is also facing fallout from a report last week that Germany's biggest car makers colluded for years over diesel technology and other issues. Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, visiting Volkswagen's Wolfsburg headquarters on Thursday, said that "the auto industry and politicians must now have an interest in restoring the image that the German auto industry had in the past — creating technically excellent and fascinating products."
Engineers at various companies "must once again compete for the best solutions; namely, solutions for emissions-free transport," she added. Hendricks also acknowledged that there has often been too little distance in the past between politicians and the auto industry, leading to the latter feeling "too secure."
Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller said he hopes that a diesel meeting next week in Berlin will help "make the discussion about the combustion engine more objective."