At the top of the EU’s agenda for the 2014-2019 term is President Juncker’s Jobs, Growth and Investment package. The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has welcomed this initiative, but hopes that the ideas behind it can be transformed into concrete policies and actions. The competitiveness of the European economy as a whole depends on the leap from good intentions towards realistic policy objectives and concrete implementation.
As a sector, the European automotive industry is a microcosm of the wider European economy. It is pan-European, employing 12.7 million skilled people across virtually all the countries of the EU, with knock-on effects on other sectors. It is engaged in the design, manufacture, import, export, and sale of products and services that are used by the entire EU population. The auto industry’s success, both on the EU and global markets, depends both on its capacity to innovate, as well as its ability to do business both at home and abroad. This is why innovation-supporting and trade-promoting policies are so at the heart of ACEA’s calls to EU policy makers.
ACEA particularly welcomes the additional focus on innovation. Smarter vehicles, through the means of increased connectivity and vehicle automation, are an area in which the automobile industry is both investing in research as well as rolling out new technologies. Such smart technologies help improve traffic performance by informing drivers and infrastructure managers about traffic flow, optimal routes or locations of parking spots and so on. Smarter cars and intelligent infrastructure have the potential to markedly reduce the CO2 emissions of the whole vehicle fleet, as well as reducing fuel usage and improving the efficiency of mobility. This is practical innovation which the EU is actively supporting via various Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) projects and vehicle research programmes.
On trade, the automobile industry remains highly committed to the success of TTIP. This trade agreement with Europe's most important trade partner could provide an impetus to manufacturing and trade in Europe. The European automotive industry is fully aligned with its US-based counterparts in seeking a comprehensive package from the TTIP negotiations. Clear objectives for industry on both sides of the Atlantic include the elimination of tariffs and of non-tariff barriers through regulatory convergence. A successful TTIP would enable the automotive industries on both sides of the Atlantic to improve efficiency without lowering safety or environmental standards.
Innovation and trade are both clear routes to the growth, investment and, ultimately, jobs that the EU extols. Through its constant efforts to highlight the importance of 'smarter regulation' – not only in the fields of innovation and international trade, but also in environmental policy – the industry has shown itself to be a committed partner in the work towards reviving the European economy.