European automotive supplier body, CLEPA, is branding as “unfair,” recent criticism levelled at the Horizon 2020 initiative calling for some EUR80bn to be invested in innovation across the Continent.

The Brussels-based component body is asking for a EUR5.5bn slice of that funding pie to be dedicated to road transport from 2014 to 2020 and has rejected some negative feedback to the proposal.

“I think it was unfair criticism about Horizon [2020], but out of the shadows come critics,” CLEPA CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, told just-auto on the sidelines of this year’s Aftermarket Conference in the Belgian capital.

“There is a lot of CLEPA input in the plan and now we need to fill that plan with life.”

Gales acknowledged it was currently a challenging environment for his members in Europe, with the recent announcements of several huge closures of plants such as PSA Peugeot Citroen’s Aulnay plant near Paris and Ford’s Genk and Southampton sites, with combined redundancies of up to 20,000 workers.

“We have over-capacity in Europe, especially in the volume segment, absorbing that should not come as a surprise,” said Gales. “With an average age of 8.2 years of the [European] car parc, we should just not expect stellar growth.

“We could be very happy to keep it stable – I see unfortunately no way around that. We need to discuss it [capacity] with the trade unions and at the moment, that is not always the easiest of tasks.

“To save other jobs it is inevitable we go for restructuring, but it has to be done, not in a bad way, but in a way that is going to [help] workers who are going to be released. The US closed 13 plants but [President] Obama has created 400,000 new manufacturing jobs.”

Formal adoption of the Horizon 2020 plan could aid that manufacturing process and as the automotive industry is the largest in Europe, investing EUR180bn of its own cash from 2014-2020, what CLEPA is asking for in terms of funding is “a drop in the ocean,” said Gales.

“Who employs 12m people?” said the CLEPA chief. “How many people do railways employ? “We have 12m people dependent on automotive – it is huge numbers, it is 12m families.

“We are world leaders in innovation, so why would we give away that advantage?”