The famous German Autobahn will soon no longer be unlimited. Unlimited free kilometers, that is. Chancellor Angela Merkel has reached an agreement with the ruling parties to introduce a toll system in order to pay for the huge costs for maintenance of the high-speed motorways.
Rumor has it the toll pricing may depend on the speed a car drives on the Autobahn. Fast drivers will pay a higher price-per-kilometer than slower drivers, as the left-wing party Die Linke has requested. According to party-leader Gregor Gysi, “The rich are able to buy faster cars, so if they want to drive them at high speeds, they should pay more, it’s only fair”.
“Because of the poor state of our infrastructure, safety may be jeopardized if we do not invest in maintenance”, Merkel said. “But there is no money available in our current budget, so we had to choose: introduce a speed limit of 90 km/h (55 mph) or introduce a toll system, which should generate enough revenue to pay for road maintenance”.
Pricing is not yet announced, but expect the highest speed bracket, with an average speed >250 km/h (155 mph), to have a similar price-per-kilometer than a lap around the famous Nürburgring, which costs € 27,- for a 20,8 km lap, equal to € 1,30 per kilometer (US$ 1,10 per mile).
German premium automakers BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have strongly opposed the introduction of a speed dependent toll as they fear to lose customers, and not only in Germany. BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer said to Left-Lane.com: “Imagine what that would do to the image of German premium brands abroad. A lot of our brand credibility is built upon our customers driving fast on the unlimited-speed Autobahn”. He continues: “If those customers are not prepared to pay the toll of driving at high speeds, and decide they may as well trade their German-made luxury sedans and SUVs for small French hatchbacks, we will no longer be taken seriously by the rest of the world”.
Audi chairman Rupert Stadler, on the other hand, thinks the speed-dependent toll is unavoidable: “Die Linke are trying to screw us over one way or the other, so we may as well just bend over and let them”. Audi is developing a new type of speedometer, specifically suited for the German toll system, indicating not the current speed, but the average speed since the last reset. That way, drivers can monitor their average speed on the toll roads, enabling them to calculate the toll cost of their trip in real-time. It will be a Europe-only option on future Audi models.
Upon hearing this development, BMWs Reithofer replied: “Audi are such traitors! Ever since they are owned by Volkswagen, they’ve been trying to play with the big boys like us. But now they’ve shown their true identity, they’re just a bunch of communists!”.