The European automotive industry is one of the biggest sectors in Europe, with more than €700 billion in turnover and a multiplier effect on the entire economy via links with other markets (steel, chemical and textile). There are approximately 180 vehicle plants across the EU. The industry provides more than 12 million direct and indirect jobs, with a significant share reflecting a highly skilled workforce. It has a hugely positive trade balance (of more than €90 billion in 2011). It is thus a major source of growth and prosperity of the European citizens.

However, due to the current macro-economic situation, automotive sales in EU markets have declined this year (a 6.8% drop for the first half of 2012 for passenger cars and a 10.8% falloff for commercial vehicles) – compared to already low sales levels of 2011. Current forecasts indicate almost 8% year-on-year decline in the EU passenger car market, with sales amounting to 12.1 million units, representing the fifth consecutive year of decline. Recovery of growth is expected only in 2014/2015, and a return to pre-crisis levels is not expected in the next 4-5 years – in certain markets only by the end of the decade.
 
The EC's action plan suggests that concrete actions to be taken on issues of emissions, research financing, electro-mobility, road safety, new skills, smart regulation, trade negotiations and international harmonization. It comprises four pillars, covering:
 
  • Investing in advanced technologies and financing innovation (particularly green vehicles)
  • Creating a stronger internal market and smart regulation
  • Allowing for global markets and the international harmonisation of vehicle regulations
  • Anticipating adaptation and softening the social impacts of industrial adjustments
After adopting the action strategy, the EC plans to put in place a dedicated process called “CARS 2020”.
 
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