Let’s turn momentum for a European Industrial Deal into real action

Europe’s competitiveness is at a crucial juncture. A flurry of high-level meetings in April shows promise, but we must maintain momentum. ACEA’s #FutureDriven Manifesto and engagements with top European leaders underscore the importance of a collaborative team effort.

What a month it has been for Europe’s auto industry, building on momentum from a series of high-level meetings and reports which put Europe’s industrial strength top of the agenda. But as awareness of Europe’s eroding competitiveness reverberates across Europe’s decision rooms, we must pick the fruit while it’s ripe to avoid losing momentum.

ACEA is hot on the heels of high-level meetings with European Council President Charles Michel and Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra. Eight of our CEOs and industry leaders joined five of their automotive supplier counterparts for separate, back-to-back meetings this month. The ‘Automotive Summit’ hosted by Commissioner Hoekstra was the first of its kind in what we hope will be subsequent editions. The meeting with Charles Michel came just ahead of a game-changing European Council with an ‘EU Competitiveness Deal’ top of the agenda. Representing the full spectrum of our membership, including light-duty and truck and bus manufacturers, ACEA had a receptive ear to many of the concerns raised in our #FutureDriven Manifesto.

The message that Europe can no longer take its industrial competitiveness for granted is beginning to gain traction and there is a growing recognition that the geopolitical tectonic plates have shifted dramatically since the Green Deal was first pioneered at the start of the current EU mandate. Europe’s top leaders appear to be demonstrating a renewed political will to safeguard and improve European competitiveness. The much-anticipated European Council meetings this month resulted in an array of positive signals Europe’s industry has long been calling for. Whether it was our calls for a holistic industry strategy, a coherent regulatory framework, vital infrastructure for the green and digital transition, and free and fair trade on an equal footing, our Manifesto recommendations are all echoed in the Council’s conclusions.

Recent high-level engagements also coincided with the launch of ACEA’s #FutureDriven Manifesto for Zero-emission Trucks and Buses catering to the specific challenges and needs of Europe’s truck and bus market – published the same day as the EU signed off on the world’s most ambitious CO2-reduction targets for trucks and buses. Complementing the #FutureDriven manifesto for all vehicle segments launched in November last year, it outlines policy recommendations for this distinct business-to-business market. Homing in on the monumental team effort needed to turn targets on paper into implementation reality, the bus and truck manifesto calls for ambitious action to ensure essential conditions are in place. Whether that’s infrastructure or carbon pricing schemes, smart policies are essential for overcoming demand bottlenecks and achieving shared decarbonisation goals.

The much-awaited Letta report which ACEA provided input for also dropped this month, indicating once more a growing recognition of the unprecedented challenges faced by Europe’s industries. Letta zeroed in on the EU’s complex regulatory framework and drew attention to the worrying trend of investment leaving the EU. With competition from the US and China like we’ve never seen before, the Single Market remains a beacon of untapped potential that can open doors for vital industries like ours. Indeed, the EU’s Single Market has been a cornerstone of our global success, helping us forge a more resilient industry with an international presence.

There are notable references to the automotive industry in Mr Letta’s report that shed light on major concerns we raised where the Single Market opens new routes for our industry. Indeed, the transport sector was singled out as a prime example of where deeper European integration is crucial to unlock the Single Market’s full potential. For instance, the monumental challenge to address the insufficient and inadequate infrastructure for electric vehicles, of particular importance for cross-border road transport of goods and people, was given due attention. A noteworthy mention in the report was the near complete absence of charging infrastructure and hydrogen refilling stations for heavy-duty vehicles, an issue also raised in our truck and bus Manifesto. What is clear is that industry, energy providers, network operators, and policy makers must now step up collaboration to scale up the deployment of pan-European infrastructure, an issue also addressed in the first of a series of new ACEA reports published just yesterday.

The momentum for a European industrial policy is becoming palpable. As Europe’s competitiveness hangs in the balance, recent high-level engagements have sparked optimism. ACEA’s #FutureDriven Manifesto and collaborative efforts with European leaders signify a new wind in the sails. But we must not become complacent, there is too much at stake. Europe’s auto industry is not only one of its longest-serving but it has been one of its most competitive globally – securing countless European jobs, investing substantially in Europe, and being integral to our European way of life. But let there be no mistake, a European industrial deal does not mean scrapping our Green Deal aspirations but will better allow us to reach our shared goals faster, keeping strategic industries in Europe. We are ready to power this transition, but together let’s capitalise on the momentum and move from talk to action.

As awareness of Europe’s eroding competitiveness reverberates across Europe’s decision rooms, we must pick the fruit while it’s ripe to avoid losing momentum.
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