Lobbying: that’s a very big and ugly word, tinged with influence, even corruption. However, there is nothing reprehensible about informing a political opinion with knowledge of the industrial world that the public authorities have difficulty in grasping, if it stops at that. The voices of this industry still need to be raised when there is still time to act. But what happened in the affair of the century, of the automobile century at least?
For several years now, the European and even global automotive industry has been preparing, with billions, to switch to all-electric in 2035see in 2030. Everyone gets down to it and waits for the deadline. So, the day after the verdict of June 8, European manufacturers, through ACEA, the organization that represents them, accept the sentence. Except that a few days later, another story rang out in the ears of Brussels officials. Voices are raised to denounce the future directive.
A combat engaged when the war is lost
Why not ? Some arguments put forward by the anti are perfectly admissible. But why advance them now? Why engage in battle after battle? It is certainly not completely lost, the directive can still be amended, reworked and adapted by the 27 countries which will have to adopt the text with their own national elected representatives. But it is a safe bet that by the end of the year, all or part of this call for all-electric June 8 will be definitively adopted. For lack of reaction from professionals in time, of course, but also for lack of cohesion between them.
Because when the text will be definitively adopted, we will realize not only that the famous lobbying of the car has a lot of lead in the wing, but that in addition, the sector is divided as ever. And in the industrial-political agenda of the past few days, certain clues prove that it may not be necessary to wait several months and the day of the final adoption to see the puzzle-like dispersion of the beautiful unity of the European automotive industry.
But let’s start with the first act: from June 9, the ACEA (the European Association of European Automobile Manufacturers) which brings together all the brands of the old continent, approves the text voted in Strasbourg. All is well in the best of automotive worlds, since everyone is in agreement. Patatras, less than a week later, the French launched the anti-Brussels, but also anti-German offensive. Carlos Tavares leaves the ACEA and, under a very polite exterior, denounces the shortcomings of the organization and in particular its lobbying for dummies.
This is because the European organization is now run by a German, the boss of BMW Oliver Zipse, who replaced Tavares in the role three years ago. Would old Franco-German grudges resurface? Still, in parallel with the bloodshed of the boss of StellantisLuc Chatel, president of the automotive platform, the French professional union for the profession, also goes to the front and castigates the text voted in Strasbourg by evoking “a leap into the void and an industrial scuttling”. For his part, Alain Prost, who still has the ear of politicians and French automobile bosses, mentioned yesterday a “red carpet rolled out to the Chinese”.
The vote in Strasbourg would therefore have come to the end of the Franco-German automotive couple, but perhaps also of the good relations between manufacturers and equipment manufacturers. Because if the first, especially in Germany, seem to more or less accept the switch to electric, because all have already engulfed tens of billions in this transformation, some of their suppliers risk losing their feathers, mainly those who produce purely mechanical parts, in both countries.
It is therefore a double fracture that the Strasbourg decision produced, those of the manufacturers between themselves, and that of the manufacturers with their equipment manufacturers. Suffice to say that it is the cohesion of the entire sector that is today in pieces. But what good could it be if it was still intact? To put the famous automobile lobby in working order? Provided you wake up before the end of the film. Could it save what, in thermals, can still be saved? Provided you do not land in Brussels to influence future amendments in scattered order and sending names of birds in the corridors of Parliament. The thermal seems well and truly dead, the lobbying too. A good thing according to some, a bad thing according to others.