European automotive supplier group CLEPA says it is confident its members can weather the economic storm currently brewing across the continent as governments desperately implement measures to stave off a further recession.

CLEPA represents 5m workers in Europe and insists its experience of similar downturns has equipped it to cope with the challenges currently queuing up to batter mature western economies swamped with debt.

“We are confident we can get through this economic situation,” CLEPA CEO Lars Holmqvist told just-auto in Brussels at the organisation’s annual aftermarket conference. “We are used to taking the measures that are needed.

“We know it is not going to be plain sailing. If the crisis turns into a recession, that is another thing, but our companies have leaned to employ flexibility. The debt crisis does not affect us directly – it will only affect us if consumer spending power goes down.”

Part of how to cope economically lies with CLEPA’s close ties with the European Commission (EC). Holmqvist outlined how important CLEPA was to the group, which relies heavily on its expertise to formulate policy and potential regulation of the industry.

“We provide solutions to problems,” he said. “If they [EC] need experts on brakes, emissions or lights, we will provide individuals or companies, but we will also give our opinion. CLEPA is very much a lobby group as we represent five million direct employees – it is not a small amount.”

“The EC is organised so that in the DG [directorate-general] Enterprise there is an automotive unit – it is their total life.”

Holmqvist added CLEPA trod carefully when it came to dealing with the commission – diplomacy in the self-styled capital of Europe is everywhere – but that the legislators were generally a force for good.

“Normally, in my experience, the EC is a help,” he said. “If you handle it wrong, they become a nuisance. They are and can be, an ally.”