Truck-makers 'under enormous pressure'

Commercial vehicle manufacturers say they are having to invest ten per cent of their turnover in R&D to meet European emissions requirements. Industry leaders have called on EU decision-makers to lessen regulatory burdens and provide more financial support to help them through the downturn and save jobs.

The financial crisis is having a severe impact on the freight transport sector. Chief executive officers of major truck-makers in the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association ACEA met in Brussels this week to brief European Commissioners, senior officials and Members of the European Parliament on the pressures they are facing.

"The reality on the road, in the workshops and in sales and manufacturing is harsh," said Leif Östling, chairman of the ACEA Commercial Vehicle Board and CEO of Scania. "It is important that EU policy makers are well informed about this situation and we have encouraged them to alleviate the enormous pressure on this important part of the economy."

ACEA says transport demand has dropped sharply over the past year as a direct consequence of the economic downturn and credit crunch. Vehicle fleet operators often have a quarter of their trucks standing idle. This situation is unlikely to change until the economy starts recovering. Demand for new commercial vehicles has fallen sharply too and is not expected to pick up before 2011. Over the past year, manufacturers have taken measures to adapt output, but pressure on permanent employment levels is mounting.

At the same time, vehicle manufacturers go to great lengths to sustain investments in R&D, most notably on road safety and emissions reduction. ACEA says the Euro VI emission requirements alone require immediate industry level investments of EUR 6-8 billion. Under the current circumstances, this translates into annual R&D investments of around 10 per cent of turnover – an enormous load to carry.

The other research priority is for continued improvement of fuel and energy efficiency to contribute to global objectives on cutting CO2 emissions as well as to provide a clear business case for customers to invest in new vehicles.

Industry leaders would like to see a number of immediate support measures from governments and EU institutions. These include increased funding for R&D, improved access to finance for truck manufacturers as well as their suppliers and customers, and stimulus programmes to promote fleet renewal and investments in new trucks.

Alongside financial support, the industry is calling for alleviation of "the severe regulatory pressure that causes high costs at a time when revenues are extremely low and there is no market base ready to invest in new technologies".

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