The Spanish industry starts the race of the electric car at a disadvantage | Economy



Just one day after learning about the plans of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition (prohibition of the sale of polluting vehicles in 2040 and circulation in 2050), the executive vice president of Anfac, Mario Armero, launched a question at a meeting of the sector in Barcelona. Would other countries be willing to buy from Spain some vehicles that are forbidden to sell in their own market? From his answer it could be interpreted that, to avoid that contradiction between production and local market, the Spanish plants would have to assume a deep reconversion and assume the manufacture of electric vehicles. Only three totally plug-in models come out today from the factories in Spain, the second largest producer of vehicles in Europe and eighth in the world.

"The Spanish automotive sector is really strong, has always shown agility in adapting to new processes and, although there are many fronts to consider now, I am very positive," said yesterday Begoña Cristeto, head of automotive at KPMG in Spain and Former Secretary General of Industry in the previous Government, on that possible conversion. "The Spanish industry has shown to have the capacity to adapt to challenges, what happens is that this transformation requires a comprehensive plan, ordered and accompanied by public investment," said Xavier Ferré, responsible partner of EY automotive. Its relative optimism, however, clashes with other realities that the Spanish industry suffers from.

In the first 10 months of the year, 10,000 electric vehicles were registered in Spain. This technology still represents a residual percentage in a market that has sold 1.13 million vehicles in the same period. That is one of the biggest weaknesses in Spanish factories, whose managers are always very attentive to what is the thermometer of the local markets where they produce to assign new models. From Anfac affirm that we are in "a good starting point" to make the conversion, although only three electric models are produced: the Citroën Berlingo and the Peugeot Rifter (on the same platform) in Vigo and the eNV-200 of Nissan in Barcelona. The Opel plant in Figueruelas (Zaragoza) has secured the manufacture of an electric version of the Corsa. And Peugeot, Citroën (in Vigo) and Mercedes (Vitoria) prepare plug-in versions.

Spain has an added problem, as recognized by Armero himself last Wednesday: the dependence on foreign multinationals, who make decisions thousands of kilometers away and whose plants in their countries of origin have a comparative advantage when it comes to making strategic decisions. Volkswagen, for example, has opted for its German factories for its new electric models, while the first dive of Seat (part of the German consortium) in that technology will be made in China, by the Asian manufacturer JAC.

The low incidence in sales of electric vehicles is explained by different reasons. The main one is the limitation in autonomy that the current battery-powered models have, a lack aggravated by the scarce number of recharging points existing today in cities and roads. There are about 1,750 and it is considered that 220,000 would be necessary if you want to get the objective of reducing CO2 emissions by 30%, pretension that the Government intends to overcome. This disadvantage has an aggravating factor: electric vehicles are still expensive compared to gasoline and diesel. Manufacturers and dealers have denounced the lack of aid for the purchase this year.

Public aid

There is a consensus that public funds are essential to carry out the decarbonisation of the vehicle fleet. In an emergency meeting yesterday held responsible for the ministries of Industry and Ecological Transition with the employers Faconauto, Ganvam and Anicam -Anfac refused to attend, the Secretary General of Industry, Raul Blanco, stressed, as explained attendees at the meeting- the draft is a working document that is expected to agree with the whole sector and ensured that it includes aid.

"We need to provide incentives to the sector for manufacturers to bet on Spain," said Ferré yesterday. The manufacturers will claim them in the traditional struggle that opens in each round of vehicle allocation between their different factories. Germany, the United Kingdom and France, which have also set the ban on polluting cars by 2040, have jointly pledged more than 3 billion euros to help manufacturers, sellers and the creation of charging infrastructure.

The impact on the labor market is another of the challenges facing the automotive industry. Building an electric requires fewer components. The industry is convinced that this new scenario will mark a reduction in the workforce, especially in the component sector. That version, however, is not generalized. The Transport and Environment organization considers that if electric vehicles reached a 50% sales quota in 2030, there would be a net job creation of 23,000 people in Spain. Jordi Carmona, responsible for automotive at UGT, believes, however, that there will be job destruction and calls to open the debate on the 32-hour week to ensure the occupation.

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