Coming back to Italy after a couple of weeks spent in different European continental countries and Northern ones, I realize that during that time I never heard about Marchionne. And this is not because in the rest of the Europe nobody speaks about cars – Fiat as well- about the crisis of the sector, staff redundancies and factory closures….
But perhaps it is a bit less pressing the identification of the brand with the person, who tends to pass any representation or externalization as an official statement of the company.
The public announcements, in many parts of the European automotive, are published profusely and almost always by the worrying contents. The last one, on order of time, is the announcement by Ford to close its plant in Genk, Belgium, to the end of 2013.
The reasons expressed in the announcements are always the same: Ford financial situation, the current European recession with the consequent collapse in sales and the structural overcapacity of the plant.
The same announcement declares a possible moving of the new S Max, Galaxy and Mondeo models on the Valencia (Spain) plant, with a different productive allocation (Saarlouis, Germany??) for C Max and Grand C Max.
Am I wrong or we have already talked about anything like that even with the Opel plant in Russelsheim?
Of course the closure of the Ford plant in Genk- 4,300 employees plus other 1,300 in the related industries- is a bad deal for the Belgian automotive industry, which in a few years has seen the closure of the Renault plant in Vilvorde and the Opel one in Antwerp just two years ago.
A decade ago Belgium was the country where the largest number of cars per capita were assembled, today the production in absolute terms has more than halved from 1,2 million in 2001 to 525,000 in 2011.
In France the situation isn’t better.
Peugeot ( -819 million euros in the first half of this year and whose shares from September 24 are no longer part of the CAC 40- the index stocks with the largest capitalization) has confirmed the closure of the factory in Aulnay in 2014 with the consequent dismissal of 8,000 employees.
An important intervention of the French State, denied by the German competition that threatens a recourse to the European Commission, will provide loans of financial Peugeot to an amount of 7 billion euros over three years.
Note that the State will fund BFP (Banque PSA Finance) captive finance, that is a banking entity within the group which supports dealers and customers!
In summary what is perceived abroad is an European automotive worried, cut off from the growth, even modest, in the world (the production +3% in 2012 and, as someone says, +5% per annum in the period 2014/2015).
The areas that seem to suffer less are the extreme ones: the entry level products covered by Asian Builders or European popular brands (Kia, Dacia) and the premium sector, traditionally covered by German brands.
The middle band of the market, the more suffering, is also the section crowded by most of the European manufacturers, from Peugeot to Fiat passing by Opel.
They are displaced as a range and for the “geography”, manufacturing in countries with high production costs and selling especially in markets with a difficult economic situation.
For European car industry work, directly or not, less than 12 million of people (from EU data).
Maybe it’s time that also at EU level you worry and take care making competitive the European automotive factory on a world level again, without vetoes or parochial protectionism.
Translated by Federica Izzo