Muenster, Germany - Daimler-Benz chairman Dieter Zetsche braved boos and a frosty reception as guest speaker at a Greens party congress on Sunday to tell delegates he too wants CO2-free cars on the roads.
Zetsche, whose company is demonised by many Greens, said Daimler-Benz had not missed the boat developing electric cars and that it backs climate protection goals - but dismissed their call to ban the sale of new cars powered by petrol or diesel by 2030.
“Many of you probably thought letting the Daimler boss talk about transportation here is like letting Donald Trump talk about women's rights,” Zetsche joked to 800 delegates at the environmentalist party's annual congress.
He disarmed the Greens by saying he backed one of their central policies for the 2017 election, that the car industry's future depends on developing emission-free cars.
“It might surprise some of you but I agree entirely,” said Zetsche, who appeared tie-less and in the same sort of running shoes many Greens wear even on formal occasions.
“The decarbonisation of industrial nations is necessary and carmakers will have to play a role,” he added.
“Even though demand for cars keeps rising globally, we'll have to cut the CO2 emissions of all the cars we manufacture. We'll live up to our climate policy responsibilities.”
‘Every second electric car in Europe is made in Germany’
Zetsche told journalists at the Paris motor show in September that Daimler's Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands would introduce more than 10 electric cars by 2025, and zero-emission vehicles would make up 15-25 percent of overall Mercedes sales by then.
As one of the most recognised faces of industry in Germany, he insisted the Greens and carmakers have much in common.
“Those who see carmakers as the root of all evil might not have noticed every second electric car in Europe is made in Germany.
“The old way of thinking pitting those obsessed with high-powered cars against joyless anti-car ecologists has been overtaken by reality,” he said.
“That's good too because the transformation the car industry is facing will have an impact on the whole country.”