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German car manufacturers have been put on notice by a senior political figure who is urging the country’s auto industry to challenge Tesla in the field of electric vehicles.

Speaking at a public forum in Berlin on the weekend, Peter Altmaier, who is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, said he was disappointed no car manufacturer had come close to matching Tesla’s electric vehicle performance parameters.

“When is our automobile industry, which is so good, actually going to be in a position to build a car that travels 50 kilometres further than a Tesla and costs 10,000 euros less?” said Altmaier. “It must be possible to set this as a goal.”

Above: Peter Altmaier (photo: Rudolf Simon)

Tesla cars, as they are in Australia, are a touch on the expensive side in Germany. A Model X 75D lists on the manufacturer’s German website for €92,650 (A$139,000). In comparison, Mercedes-Benz GLS large SUV lists on Merc’s German website starting at €75,154 (A$113,000).

And this disparity is rankling with German government officials, particularly in light of the looming general election later this month where the incumbents’ main opponent, the Social Democrat’s Martin Schulze is a vocal proponent of electric vehicles.

German Chancellor Angel Merkel had earlier issued a target of 1,000,000 electric vehicles on Germany’s roads by 2020, but conceded in May that that target was not going to be met.

Germans have been slow on the electric vehicle uptake, citing range anxiety and price as major factors. German carmakers too, have been dragging their heels when it comes to electric vehicles.

Currently, the only electric car manufactured in Germany is the BMW i3, which lists on BMW’s German website for €36,800 (A$55,200) and has a claimed range of less than 200 kilometres.

It’s a point not lost on Altmaier who said, “If the automobile industry doesn’t grasp the fact that it has to invest more in electric vehicles, especially in cities, then it will be very hard to defend combustion engines – gasoline and diesel – over the long term.

“We must do all we can now, so that the best electric cars are built in Germany.”

Over to you, Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen Group.

MORE: Everything electric cars