Bright Future for Croatian Auto Club
Publication date: 20 January 2008
Out of humble beginnings, the national automobile club of Croatia is now looking forward with optimism.
Croatia's Automobile Club, HAK celebrated its 100 years anniversary with a spectacular parade of old-time automobiles, an FIA conference and a visit of the highest officers of world automobile organisations to Zagreb. As Ivo Bikić, HAK President explains, the club was founded by just 14 members a century ago. The founders, who met at the Royal Hotel, 44 Ilica Street in Zagreb in May 1906 were all wealthy people who could afford the automobile, an invention which was only thirty years old. The first President of the club was count Rudolf Erdödy and the first Secretary was a shopkeeper from Zagreb who was in love with the automobiles, motorcycles and sports- Ferdinand Budicki.
"Since then, the Croatian Automobile Club has operated without any discontinuation," says Bikić. "It had its oscillations, as during the Second World War, and in 1991 its historical name was given back to it. In the ex-Yugoslavia, the club was called the Auto Moto Association of Croatia."
Bikić became to the chairman of Croatian Automobile Club in 2004. He had started his career in automobile club in Vinkovci. Also in 2006, his original automobile club celebrated its eightieth anniversary. In 1926, an automobile club under the name Sremac was founded in Vinkovci, as well as the Slavonac automobile club in Osijek. Among all the local associations of drivers, the club that is the oldest is the motorcycle club from Split, founded in 1907.
Over the years, the Croatian Automobile Club has had the same role as other world automobile clubs, members of FIA: road assistance, technical correctness of the vehicle, information on the situation on the roads, lobbying in traffic related issues and organising automobile races.
Today, most western European national automobile clubs have been restructured so that they can carry out economically profitable activities. They are being separated into special companies, while the profit is flowing back into the automobile club.
The Croatian Automobile Club is currently in a similar position. Numerous new services, the existence of which the HAK founders could barely imagine, are being introduced: members, as well as the rest of the population, are able to watch the films made by web cams on the Croatian Automobile Club internet site www.hak.hr and can see if there are traffic jams at the border crossings, highways, bridges, tunnels or on the main roads of Zagreb. The number of the web cams will soon be increased, and HAK will provide a service by which observing traffic situations will be possible by mobile phone.
According Werner Kraus, President of FIA Region I, in terms of automobile club development across Europe, Africa and Middle East that includes 97 clubs and 45 million members, the Croatian Automobile Club is situated somewhere in the middle.
"Western Clubs are now over one hundred years old. I am the chairman of the Austrian Automobile Club and we were founded in the year 1896, therefore our club is 110 years old. During these 110 years, we were continuously developing. At this time, we have 1.6 million members among million of citizens, that is around 20 percent of the population. The Croatian Automobile Club is now hundred years old, but its development was not stable. Here, you had to face many more problems than in the West.
"However, during last couple of years, the Croatian Automobile Club had very good development. I heard that the goal is an increase of the membership for twenty or thirty per cent a year. I think that it is very good. Eastern countries had a problem since 1945 until the end of the 80s. In ex- Yugoslavia there were some problems during the 90s as well. In Western countries we had some very prosperous development since 1945 to the present day. That is what is missing here."
In recent times, one of the key issues for the FIA has been tackling road deaths. FIA clubs have been prominent in supporting the Make Roads Safe campaign calling for the UN to act to reduce the number of deaths on the roads. The Croatian Automobile Club has also been active in this area persuading national celebrities and politicians to back the campaign. President of Croatia Stjepan Mesić, the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Vladimir Šeks and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović have recently sent the campaign a letter of support, outlining how they are fully behind Make Roads Safe and its goals.
In the world of sport, stars have given their high profile backing to the campaign. Tennis ace Ivan Ljubičić was the first to sign the petition. He was followed by Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva and his fellow Croatian international Niko Kranjčar. The club also persuaded three-times national rally champion Juraj Šebalj to put the Make Roads Safe logo on his Mitsubishi Lancer. He promoted the campaign at the 2007 European championships. All this just shows how far HAK has come since a meeting in a Zagreb hotel in 1906.