CARS 21 - More work to safeguard mobility
Publication date: 14 November 2008
The FIA calls for more to be done to safeguard mobility when assessing the Cars 21 high level conference. CARS 21 aims to make recommendations to improve the competitiveness of the European car industry. “If Europe is to maintain its global competitiveness, dramatic yet affordable improvements in safety and environmental performance are needed,” explained Wil Botman, Director General of the FIA European Bureau. Botman represented the FIA, on behalf of FIA President Max Mosley, in the group that brings together CEO’s of car manufacturers, ministers from car producing countries, and representatives of the fuel industry, the repair and trade sector, parts suppliers, and environmental organizations.
“The car industry, the European Commission and the Member States have to do more on safety and environment. We think the biggest gains to be made on environment are from car technology. But there are also substantial improvements to be made by users following eco-driving,” said Botman. “Gains also can be also achieved by infrastructure improvements. National governments should deliver here,” he continued. Progress could be achieved by focusing on aspects related to driver behaviour and road infrastructure safety management, through the improvement of road infrastructure to tackle accident black spots, increased support for eco-driving techniques, more driver education and the availability of harmonised consumer information on car emissions. The test cycle used by manufacturers to measure CO2 output urgently needs updating.
Despite these points, Botman noted a number of positive actions undertaken by the European Commission since 2005. These include the move towards global harmonised regulations, proposals to introduce a number of safety features, such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Daytime Running Lights (DRL) as well as the proposal for ambitious CO2 targets in 2012. Speaking just after the presentation of the CARS21 Mid-Term Review, together with European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, Botman pointed to two important areas to consumers that still need consideration: the Block Exemption Regulation and the Design Directive and its Repairs Clause.
The high level group failed to reach agreement on the Block Exemption Regulation. “This governs competition in the vehicle trade sector, and is now under revision by the Commission,” said Botman. Car manufacturers, however, were reluctant to discuss continuation of the measure. There was also no agreement on the Design Directive and its Repairs Clause. This Directive aims to liberalise the production, distribution and sale of visible automotive spare parts to the independent aftermarket. It has, however, been blocked in the Council for many years due to conflicting interests between car producing and non-car producing countries.
At the final meeting of CARS21, vehicle manufacturers also presented some surprise proposals. One proposal calls for a credit facility of some EUR 40 billion to be provided by the Commission. This soft loan should help the industry in a difficult economic situation. Whilst Verheugen was “positive” the proposal received a mixed reaction from other participants. The idea would be for the European Investment Bank (EIB) to offer low interest-rate loans to support R&D on improved energy efficiency and lower fuel consumption for new vehicles.
Another idea floated by car manufacturers at the last minute was a proposal on end-of-life vehicles. According to manufacturers, when people buy new cars they should not sell on their old cars, but have them scrapped. The argument used by car makers is that taking “old” cars off the road would help reduce CO2 emissions. Botman is sceptical of a measure that would hurt car owners financially. He also points to the high total cost of the car, not just the initial purchase. “This end-of-life idea was not in the final report, but was discussed at the last meeting,” he explained. Commissioner Verheugen has promised to set up a working group to discuss the idea.
Despite its limitations, Botman remains positive about the CARS21 group as it brings together the European Commission, industry, users and other stakeholders. Nonetheless, he would like to see the Commission take a more balanced focus when examining solutions to raise the competitiveness of the car industry. This should include the manufacturers, of course, but also suppliers and repairers.
The High Level Conference first produced recommendations in December 2005. This led to a communication of the European Commission in February 2007 with a number of actions for the coming years. The Mid-term Review in 2008 examined the actions already taken and assessed the need for future actions.