Brussels, Belgium – The European Union must step up and coordinate support measures for the European economy and automotive industry, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

The association said that the vehicle industry, in particular, needs significantly broader and quicker access to financial support through the European Investment Bank, as part of a broader set of measures to survive the economic turmoil, ensure innovations in low-carbon technologies, and maintain the highly-skilled workforce Europe needs.

“2009 will be a decisive year for our economies and for our industry,” said Carlos Ghosn, president of ACEA and CEO of Renault. “The automotive manufacturers are taking all measures within their reach to emerge from the crisis. In parallel, governments have to take urgent and drastic measures to prevent a prolonged period of recession. We believe it is time for Europe to take the lead by designing and deploying instruments that are critically needed in this time of crisis. A coordinated European policy would not only ensure more fairness and greater respect for EU competition rules but, more importantly, greater efficiency in a single, European market.”

The ACEA is calling for several measures, including a level playing field ensured by deploying and coordinating support measures such as market incentives, fleet renewal schemes, and relieving cost of temporary unemployment through the EU; improving access to liquidity by allowing state guarantees for low-interest loans; increasing the amount of European Investment Bank (EIB) funding and ensuring a quicker availability of these funds; and safeguarding the competitiveness of the industry by postponing costly new regulations, and ensuring that newly-negotiated free trade agreements are balanced.

“The measures that the EU has agreed upon so far are insufficient to meet the needs of our industry,” Ghosn said. “In October last year, we have called for low-interest loans amounting to £4o billion. Up to today, vehicle manufacturers have already applied for over £6 billion in EIB loans and the funds needed in 2009 alone could easily add up to 15 billion. Similar levels may well be necessary in the years thereafter. The level of funding needs to be raised and decision-making procedures must be simplified and shortened. This aid is urgently needed to maintain our industry’s capacity for innovation and ensure the transition to a low-emission fleet.”

Passenger car and commercial vehicle sales fell sharply in Europe in 2008; automobile production was subsequently trimmed back by around 20 per cent in the last three months of 2008. The ACEA expects European vehicle production in 2009 to decline by at least 15 per cent, which puts further massive pressure on costs and employment.

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