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Brussels, 25th February 2009

Background on the situation in the European car industry

(See also IP/09/318)

There are 12 million jobs dependent on the automotive industry and it is the EU's largest private R&D investor while in economic terms its turnover is about € 780 billion Euro.

The automotive industry is central to Europe's prosperity. The EU is the world's largest producer of motor vehicles, producing over 18 million vehicles a year and almost a third of the world's passenger cars. It is a huge employer of skilled workforce, directly employing over 2 million people but responsible for some 12 million jobs. It is a key driver of knowledge and innovation, investing more than € 20 billion a year in R&D, making it Europe's largest private investor in R&D. With an annual turnover of € 780 billion and a value added of over € 140 billion, it makes a major contribution to the EU’s GDP. It exports far more than it imports, with a surplus of over €60 billion on overall exports of €125 billion. In addition, the sector plays a central part in tackling many of the key economic, social and environmental challenges faced by Europe today, such as sustainable mobility and safety.

Automotive manufacturing is closely linked with many other sectors. Electronics, mechanical and electrical engineering, information technology, steel, chemicals, plastics, metals and rubber are all key suppliers. 20% of the EU's steel and 36% of its aluminium production goes into automotive production. It also has a very significant cross-border dimension in Europe and globally Typically, there are around 50 upstream component suppliers for a car, spread all over Europe, and around 75% of the value-added of a new car is generated by these suppliers. As a consequence, the value of intra-Community trade in automotive products is substantial with around € 360 billion in 2007 although the start of the crisis saw this drop to € 315 billion in 2008. Any downturn in the automotive sector therefore strongly affects other sectors and all EU Member States.

The current economic crisis is being marked by a sudden downturn for manufacturing. EU industrial production slumped by 8.4% in the last quarter of 2008, and there is every sign that this drop is accelerating as orders already on the books start to dry up. the downturn has hit the automotive industry particularly hard: the 20% contraction seen is the largest recorded. Similar trends are to be observed for sectors with close links to the automotive industry like steel where consumption is expected to decline by 30% in the first quarter of this year and 16% in the second quarter.

In the last quarter of 2008 new car registrations in Europe declined by an average of 20%. New passenger car sales fell by 1.2 million 2008. In January 2009, the European passenger car market was 27% lower than a year before. The producers of commercial vehicles were even harder hit with orders for heavy duty vehicles falling from 38.000 in January 2008 to 600 in November 2008, which is two third of the daily production capacity of an average heavy duty vehicle producer. While the situation varies between individual Member States the downturn has now reached every market in the EU, and all major producers on the European market are severely affected.

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