Early last month, we published this year’s edition of our popular Automobile Industry Pocket Guide. This comprehensive 74-page booklet provides you with an extensive overview of one of Europe’s key industries. In it, you will find the latest data on the contribution of the EU automotive sector to economic growth, society, mobility and the environment; all of which underlines that our industry remains the backbone of the European economy.
Today, the automotive sector provides direct and indirect jobs to 13.3 million Europeans, representing 6.1% of total EU employment. Moreover, the 3.4 million high-skilled jobs in automotive manufacturing represent 11.3% of the EU’s total manufacturing employment.
Last year, passenger car registrations grew by 3.4%, passing the symbolic mark of 15 million units for the first time since 2007. In parallel, more than 2.6 million trucks, buses, coaches and vans were built in the EU in 2017. But even as we are coming close to pre-crisis figures, the situation of the European auto industry remains fragile. It is crucial that we maintain this trajectory of recovery within Europe, as well as safeguarding our industry’s competitiveness on the global level.
In this context it is important to note that EU auto manufacturers exported 5.9 million motor vehicles in 2017, generating a trade surplus of €90.3 billion for the European Union. Compared with the EU’s total trade balance in manufactured goods, worth some €290 billion, automobile exports make a vital contribution to the overall trade position of the EU.
Not only does our industry generate millions of jobs and economic growth, automobiles are also a vital source of government revenue. Taxation on motor vehicles, for instance, is worth €413 billion annually in the EU-15 member states alone – that is almost three times the total budget of the European Union!
At the same time, ACEA’s members remain committed to addressing tomorrow’s challenges, such as reducing the impact of car production on the environment. Even though the number of cars produced increased from 11.9 million in 2013 to 17 million in 2017, auto makers have succeeded in significantly reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing over the last decade.
New figures from ACEA’s new Pocket Guide show that total CO2 emissions from car production fell by nearly 24% since 2008. This is significant, as manufacturers managed to decouple CO2 emissions from production growth, for instance by sourcing energy from renewable and low-carbon sources.
In addition, for each car produced over the last decade, water consumption was reduced by some 31%. This was achieved notably by using recirculation technologies for the re-use of water and other long-term strategies for limiting water consumption.
As cars have become equipped with ever more features, vehicle production has become more complex. This increase in complexity affects energy demand. Despite this, the energy consumption per car produced decreased by almost 16% over the last 10 years. The amount of waste generated per car produced went down by nearly 14% during the same period.
This positive track record demonstrates the automobile industry’s strong commitment to reducing the environmental impact of both the use of its vehicles as well as production processes. It is part of an ongoing and multifaceted strategy, which all European manufacturers adhere to.
The same ambition level applies to our objective of making mobility cleaner, smarter and safer in the future. To that end, the annual R&D investment by the EU automobile and parts sector has been increased by 7.4% to reach an all-time high of €53.8 billion. This contribution makes the automotive industry the EU’s number one investor in R&D – ahead of pharma and tech. It is responsible for 27% of the region’s total R&D spending.
Compared to other world regions, the EU auto sector by far leads the way in terms of R&D investment. Japan comes second in the global ranking with an investment of €29.8 billion per year, followed by the US with €18.5 billion. In fourth place comes China with €5.4 billion, or just one tenth of the EU’s annual spending.
In addition, over 8,700 automotive patents were granted by the European Patent Office last year. This level of investment into innovation shows how serious we are about further decarbonising and digitalising road transport, thereby supporting the main policy aims of the European Union.
Secretary General of ACEA