‘Future of the EU auto industry’ Summit brings together thought leaders on mobility transformation

The highly anticipated ‘Leading the mobility transformation: The future of the EU auto industry’ Summit organised by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) took place on Wednesday 4 September. More than 300 stakeholders in the field of mobility gathered in Brussels to discuss how the EU auto sector can take the global lead in the transformation of mobility.

ACEA Secretary General Erik Jonnaert opened the Summit by stating that the aim was “to identify the opportunities in store for automotive in Europe, while also drawing lessons from some of the past mistakes made in our industry.” Jonnaert emphasised that the event marked the beginning of a new chapter for ACEA: “One of strengthened cooperation with all EU policy makers and stakeholders to successfully drive the transformation of the EU auto industry.”

The second keynote speech was delivered by Anton Nikitin of the City of Vilnius. Nikitin argued that mobility is not about fancy apps: “Mobility is about the people, and serving their basic needs.” Vilnius’s Head of Sustainable Urban Mobility stressed that there is no point in cities banning certain forms of transport. “We are not going to force people to use specific mobility solutions. It is a question of offering better and more convenient options,” according to Nikitin.

Subsequently, Mervi Kaikkonen took the floor to talk about the policy implication of the mobility transformation from the perspective of the Finnish EU Presidency. Ms Kaikkonen stated that “the EU has a good opportunity to be a global leader in sustainable and innovative mobility solutions. However, quickly developing technologies and business models cannot thrive with slow, inflexible rules and legislators.” That’s why she argued that EU Regulations need to be technologically neutral: “It is not regulators’ task to choose one technology over the other.”

The final keynote was given by Andreas Tschiesner, Senior Partner at McKinsey, who talked about the challenges and opportunities facing Europe’s auto manufacturers. Tschiesner pointed out that following the rapid shift from horses to engine-powered vehicles between 1900 and 1912, the mobility sector is now arriving at its second major tipping point: the redefinition of mobility as we know it. He added that the global automotive revenue pool is expected to double by 2030, but that in the future “50% of revenues will come from service-oriented value chains.”

After a short break, five experts joined the first panel discussion on the wider implications of the energy transition. Carla Gohin, Vice President Research & Innovation at PSA Group, argued that Europe is lagging behind in charging infrastructure. “The pace at which OEMs are introducing electric cars isn’t matched by plans for infrastructure. And EU member states are not aligned,” Gohin stated. Artur Runge-Metzger, Director at the European Commission’s DG Climate Action, reminded the audience that commercial vehicles are an equally important part of the equation but require a different approach, saying that “trucks are going to need more diverse solutions” than cars.

According to Max Warburton of Sanford C Bernstein the big question is how Europe is going to finance the energy transition. “There is a role for governments in infrastructure and battery production, but at the moment a lot of the burden falls on car companies,” cautioned Warburton. Julia Poliscanova stressed that Europe needs to become the sustainable battery production champion. “16 gigafactories have already been announced,” said T&E’s Director Clean Vehicles and e-Mobility.

Ms Gohin wrapped up by explaining that “it is not just about cities, mobility must remain accessible and affordable to all our consumers. We should not forget that the freedom of mobility is key for everyone.” Umicore’s Egbert Lox agreed, reiterating that a successful energy transition is all about convincing the consumer.

Mr Lox, who is Umicore’s Senior Vice President Government Affairs, also underlined that “the mobility transformation needs a broad portfolio of material technologies and circular economy services to reach the next level of sustainability for both thermal and electrified powertrains.”

After the first debate concluded, ACEA’s Erik Jonnaert was joined on stage by Julia Poliscanova of Transport & Environment (T&E) and Eurelectric’s Secretary General, Kristian Ruby, to sign a joint statement calling on the EU to facilitate a rapid roll-out of smart charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. A unique moment, as it marked the first time that the EU auto industry, electricity sector and green group joined forces to push for a common goal.

The second panel discussion of the day looked at the challenges and opportunities of the digital transition for the EU auto industry. Olle Isaksson, Principal Strategic Customer Engagements at Ericsson, kicked off by arguing that “the auto industry could benefit from being less vehicle-centric, and by focusing more on transport systems.” Talking about how to speed up the deployment of connected and automated vehicles, Stéphanie Leonard (TomTom’s Strategic Business Development Manager) warned that “the main risk is that the regulatory framework at the UNECE level is going too slow.”

Christel Plessers, who is Head of IT European Markets at Mercedes-Benz, further elaborated on the challenges facing automated vehicles. “We indeed need to work on social acceptance, but shouldn’t forget about the technical challenges,” Plessers said. “Streets need to be mapped precisely and sensors need to learn to deal with snow, for example.”

Herald Ruijters (Director at the European Commission’s DG Mobility & Transport) stated that he is convinced that consumers will accept connected and automated driving but that more EU funds are needed. “If we don’t have a strong Multiannual Financial Framework for the next period we won’t have the enabling framework to make things happen.”

The collaborative spirit of the discussion was captured by Joost Vantomme, Smart Mobility Director at ACEA, who concluded that “cooperation between vehicle manufacturers, regulators and other stakeholders is indispensable to ensure the orderly deployment of automated driving in Europe.”

Following the wrap-up of the afternoon conference, ACEA invited the 300 guests to join the evening reception. In addition to providing networking opportunities and a chance to informally reflect on a stimulating afternoon, the 2019-2024 ACEA Manifesto was officially launched at this occasion by Carlos Tavares, President of ACEA and CEO of PSA Group.

During his speech, Mr Tavares set out ACEA’s pillars of work for the new EU policy term, emphasising that the auto industry is committed to work closely with policy makers but that both sides should engage in “active listening” to better understand each other’s perspectives.

We would like to thank the ACEA Summit sponsors

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