Outgoing European automotive supplier body, CLEPA, CEO Lars Holmqvist says he sympathises with union concerns of an imminent jobs cull across the Continent.

Automaker CEOs at General Motors and Fiat among others, have warned huge over-capacity threatens to derail profitability, while the recent announcement of a proposed alliance between Detroit and PSA Peugeot Citroen has provoked a decidedly twitchy reaction from unions.

“Manufacturers…are looking for a plan to reduce capacity,” European Metalworkers Federation (EMF) policy adviser Wolf Jacklein told just-auto. I think it would be complete nonsense to reduce this capacity and that is short-sighted, short-term financial politics. It is not industrial policy.”

The pan-European labour body’s stance has received a sympathetic hearing from newly-retired CLEPA CEO, Lars Holmqvist, who stepped down last week to take up a raft of non-executive automotive posts and will continue to be closely involved in the industry.

“I understand where the EMF is coming from,” Holmqvist told just-auto. “We are both fighting for the survival of Europe, for normal, decent jobs and paying value added tax. “If you lose a million jobs, the negative effect is you will pay those people for not having a job.

“What is good for the trade unions is good for us, but we have to learn what makes Europe competitive. Not low wages, I am talking about more flexibility, better mobility from Germany to France and France to Italy [for example]. Here the European Commission (EC) plays a vital role – you can’t have 27 different countries – we have to be co-ordinated.”

Holmqvist – who as CLEPA CEO prioritised close relations with the most powerful politicians in the Commission – insisted the challenges facing the auto sector were of top priority in Brussels. 

[EC vice president Antonio] Tajani and  [Commission president Jose Manuel] Barroso are concerned about the situation,” said Holmqvist. “It is wrong to say they don’t understand – they do understand but there is still not a single voice from the automotive industry because we have huge differences – but the EC is very concerned.”

The former CLEPA chief also reserved political praise for UK business and enterprise minister, Mark Prisk, who had addressed the European supplier association board.

“I rate him as a very attentive and understanding minister, who is really trying to do something good for the industry,” said Holmqvist.