Press release
Brussels, 23/09/2021 CECRA and Infopro Digital have just closed their 2-day conference on Europe’s automotive mobility #CONNECTEurope with great success. The event hosted approx. 150 participants representing European and International leaders from the up & downstream automotive world as well as decision makers from the European institutions.
During the first plenary session, dedicated to Green Deal, the Executive Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans set out the Commission’s goal and plans for making Europe the 1st climate continent by 2050. In his speech, he addressed the audience by saying that the automotive industry and its services have an important role to play in the transition to a climate neutral future. Transport is the only sector where greenhouse gas emissions have been on the rise. The bulk of that is caused by passenger cars. To bring these emissions down, he invites the whole industry to accelerate its efforts and to increase the market share of electric vehicles. He added, as it will have a serious impact on car dealerships and repair shops, a transition plan is therefore needed. As regard the social impact, he invites the industry to share thoughts and ideas on how best workers could switch jobs.
In the role out of the charging infrastructures, an acceleration is also needed. The Commission is therefore proposing ambitious and binding targets per member state to deploy the publicly available infrastructure.
There is a real need to prepare and adapt the entire mobility system. It includes the shift towards clean transport modes like cycling and zero emission transport, as well as to review the tax systems.
Timmermans concluded by saying that he counts on the automotive ecosystem representatives to help the Commission to get a transition that will be bold and that will leave no one behind.The ensuing debate clearly showed the will of all to move towards CO2 reduction at full speed, but that in the short transition period, defined by the Commission, hybrid cars for long journeys with light batteries that consume less CO2 and electric vehicles for short urban journeys were still necessary to carry out the transition and to have time to train new skills. The rapid replacement of the most polluting cars with subsidies for low-income households, the development of hydrogen research, the use of alternative fuels and the acceleration of the development of fast-charging systems should be the priorities. The participants therefore decided to establish a more precise schedule and a fair distribution of tasks in the coming months.

The connectivity and digitalisation, dealt with in detail within the second plenary session, evoked some intensive discussions. It goes without saying that connected in-vehicle data is key. Several associations including CECRA, the automotive aftermarket operators, mobility services and consumers developed a system called S-OTP, a secure on-board telematics platform, which allows accessing data and functions emitted by the vehicle under the same conditions as manufacturers. However, the opinions between manufacturers’ association ACEA and aftermarket players were diverging, the session ended with a rather positive note. ACEA’s Director General Eric-Mark Huitema reached out to CECRA to continue the negotiations taking into account that in the end it is up to the customer to decide upon his data.  The focus of the 2nd day was put on the future automotive distribution models. Natalia Lazarova, the Head of Unit Antitrust at the Commission, set out the regulations applicable to the automotive distribution and repair sector. Both regulations are currently under review. She very much welcomed the event as through these exchanges, the Commission better understands the needs of the automotive players. The Commission is at present drafting the new rules. She invites CECRA’s members to send their comments to the last consultation round.
Klaus Zellmer, member of the Board of Management Sales, Marketing and After Sales of Volkswagen passenger cars, said VW has implemented an agency distribution model for specific products (e.g. electric vehicles) since one year. In order to assess tomorrow’s challenges, OEMs need to be more connected with their customers. The agency model would permit them to do so. The established network of dealers would be integrated into this new model as they have an essential role to play in the overall process of the customer’s buying process and experience. Being at the front desk, guiding and assisting customers in the technicalities and specificities of that good is fundamental.
Christian Bourgeon, lawyer specialized in distribution law, spoke about the legal details between a franchise and agent contract. These will further intensively be examined and discussed at CECRA dedicated working group. Nicolas Lenormant, a French truck dealer, and Jean-Charles Herrenschmidt, President of CECRA said as dealers start to make huge investments to ease energetic transition, it is highly important that new contracts would not create more precarity on their business. An exclusive distribution system or, at least a moratorium would be appreciated in this very challenging and sensitive period.

Bernard Lycke, General Director of CECRA, explained that it is up to OEMs to decide upon which distribution model to unroll. However, they shall indeed respect the contract conditions linked to that particular model put in place. As partners, manufacturers and dealers need to start off their bilateral discussions on the details of the future envisaged distribution models in order to make sure to come to a win-win situation and not to a one side approach which could lead to a demotivation of the networks and therefore result into an undesirable outcome.
This message was relayed by Rhett Ricard, Chairman 2020 of the American dealer association NADA and representatives of Chinese, Brazilian and Russian dealer associations which supported the European sales and repair firm standpoints and underlined the importance of dealers in their respective countries.

The assembly, through several witnesses including Thomas Martin, HR Director of the Frey Group in France, insisted on the fact that the transformation within the automotive industry will furthermore have a huge impact on jobs. Skilling, reskilling and upskilling is essential to make sure workers are not left behind. They shall be trained in conformity to the upcoming changes enabling them to perform high qualified repairs and maintenance of the future car park and by this means to ensure compliance to environmental standards and above all to guarantee road safety.
Francis Bartholomé, President of the French national association CNPA, underlined the same urgencies during the gala dinner speech. ‘Challenges are ahead, it is time to act and to put all actors around the table for the sustainability of all our companies and our workers”.
Jean-Charles Herrenschmidt, President of CECRA, said the conference has clearly sounded the alarm and the risk of not accelerating in the face of competitors who have taken the lead. It has allowed all stakeholders to start looking in the same direction in order to find efficient and cost-effective solutions in the coming months. They will be used to move forward quickly because it is time to move on and to work together to prepare the shift. Both Jean-Charles Herrenschmidt and Christophe Carignano said: “a 2nd edition of #CONNECTEurope will be organized next year to take stock of all the progress made”.

For more information
Bernard Lycke – Director General
Mobile: +32 475 932 693