Mixed outlook for industry, says ACEA
So said ACEA President Dieter Zetsche (Daimler) this week at the annual reception of the auto industry's trade association, the ACEA, in Brussels where Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard also gave a keynote speech.
Mr Zetsche reflected on the situation in the more mature automotive markets such as the EU, as well as the prospected surge in vehicle demand in developing economies.
He summarised the challenges for the European auto industry in two key questions: 'First, how do we fulfil the growing demand for automobiles sustainably? Second, how do we make sure that Europe is a key player in doing so?' The answers, he said, are in the main ACEA priorities for this year: 'Win on free trade; keep cutting emissions; and put "CARS 21" in the fast lane.'
He added: 'Trade is high on ACEA's priority list for 2011, because for the sake of our industry and the European economy, we have to make sure this is a two-way street.'
He also underlined that the global competitiveness of automobiles is more and more determined by their efficiency.
'The European auto industry already invests more than 30 billion euros in R&D per year – more than any other industry in the EU. And that investment is paying off: Several European manufacturers have already put advanced technologies in customers' hands-ranging from plug-in hybrids to battery- electric- and fuel-cell vehicles.'
Mr Zetsche called for a unified policy approach to support and ensure future e-mobility leadership here in Europe. 'We cannot get complacent. We have to push the development and introduction of new technologies – because that's exactly what our counterparts in China, the US and elsewhere are already doing. However, the R&D behind their progress is also the beneficiary of strong government support. In Europe, we cannot just stand and watch others pass us by.'
A key task remains to define an industrial policy for the automotive sector that strengthens manufacturing in Europe. 'We welcome the progress made since the re-launch of CARS 21,' said Mr Zetsche. 'The Working Groups are set up, the goals are defined, and the plan is in place. So, it's time to get the job done.'
Targets alone are not enough, added Mr Zetsche. 'The 'C' in CARS 21 stands for "competitive". A reasonable framework is equally important. It is about smarter regulation principles that fit the reality of the market.'