Rethinking the EU’s regulatory approach in the auto sector

Rethinking the EU’s regulatory approach in the auto sector

EURACTIV — 2023-12-21

News from Brussels

The immense scale of transformation underway in the automotive sector should give Europe cause to rethink how it regulates in the interest of both consumers and the competitiveness of its industry, argues Sigrid de Vries.

ACEA recently launched our manifesto, setting forth a vision for the future of mobility in Europe ahead of the EU’s next mandate. Far from being just the usual list of policy recommendations, our manifesto outlines our ambition to jointly deliver a roadmap for a European mobility ecosystem. 

Instead of going our own way, we are seeking to build constructive relationships with our partners, including civil society, consumer organisations, and policymakers, to achieve our shared goals.

Our manifesto also comes at a timely moment as we undergo the most significant transformation in the last century, and we shift away from the combustion engine, a technology that Europe has traditionally been a world leader in.

This is no easy feat and means significant upheaval to our supply chains, production facilities, and workforce with knock-on effects for consumers. 

Therefore, one of our recommendations is that the immense scale of this transformation should give Europe cause to rethink how it regulates.

This thought alone seems to be a red flag for civil society organisations – but digging heels in the sand is not bringing us any closer to implementing shared goals.

Take the EU’s Green Deal: currently, a lot of ambition on paper. Apart from the sticks, where are the carrots to foster change in industry, public authorities, and consumer behaviour?

Regulation can often help – the internal market is a great example – but it can also hinder, if not coherent, synchronised, or competitiveness-checked.

The EU needs to implement the ambitious Green Deal in a world that has changed dramatically over the past few years.

Europe faces increasingly fierce competition from other global regions, including for critical resources and competencies. We can no longer continue to ignore this while singlehandedly setting rules for the global chessboard.

Far from demanding a ‘regulatory pause’, automakers want to work collaboratively with policymakers and civil society towards smarter regulating methods that safeguard competitiveness and benefit all Europeans.

We need a cohesive regulatory framework built on a reasonable pace of regulation, backed up by sufficient lead times and enabling conditions.

Euro 7 and the access to in-vehicle data proposals are two other glaring examples of where the EU has put the regulatory cart before the horse. Euro 7 risked adding disproportionate costs that would inevitably undermine consumer choice while offering marginal environmental benefits.

Instead, lawmakers should focus on incentivising the build-up of Europe’s lagging charging networks, holding consumers back from purchasing electric models.

The in-vehicle data proposal also poses unnecessary weight on the shoulders of manufacturers. Especially as the EU’s Data Act already guarantees consumer rights to data, making additional sector-specific legislation entirely unnecessary while diverting our attention from decarbonising.   

All of this and more comes at a time when our industry is doing its utmost to shore up EU electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing. The shift to battery-electric vehicles is making a sustainable contribution to Europe’s efforts to combat climate change, but a stranglehold of regulations that divert our efforts serves neither consumer nor industry interests.

Just last week, a new report underlined this worrying trend, indicating that the EU’s regulatory approach and lack of industrial strategy puts EU EV manufacturing on the backpedal compared to China and the US – who are incentivising domestic production in a coherent way.

In sum, this is not just a massive industrial transition we need to manage alone, but this is a broader societal transformation that inclusively involves all Europeans.

For ACEA, our manifesto is not just a call to action for policymakers but also a call to action for all societal actors. We must collectively manage this transition to reach our shared destination of a greener, more digital, and more competitive Europe.