MAN’s boss Joachim Drees believes the automotive industry is entering “the most exciting time since we replaced horse-drawn carriages with vehicles”.
But he acknowledges relentless urbanisation of the world’s population presents a major challenge.
“By 2050 the urban population will double,” he claims, “and goods transport is already pushed to the limits.”
With gridlock increasingly common, Drees adds: “Cities have to be careful they don’t suffocate themselves with their own success.”
He says the growth of e-commerce has changed the way people shop and that the demand for “same-day delivery clogs up the system” in what he describes as the “now economy”.
Low-emission zones (LEZs) are putting further pressure on urban operators, and Drees says MAN is seeking a sustainable model for the transport of goods and people.
“We want to move away from being a pure manufacturer to provide sustainable transport solutions,” he explains.
UK MD Thomas Hemmerich points out some challenges particular to the UK market. When it comes to the imposition of LEZs he says: “Every big city has a different agenda. This is not like the rest of Europe where there is a national approach.”
As for the possible economic impact of Brexit, he admits: “We get hugely nervous,” but adds: “We are amazed at the resilience of the market.”
An electric TGE will arrive in the UK within two years and Hemmerich admits it is a market the brand is desperate to get into with both vans and minibuses, as he foresees a future when cities could be closed to all but electric vehicles.