European automotive supplier association, CLEPA says it encourages the Commission in Brussels through its various Directorates to adopt a “holistic” approach when it comes to evaluating the sector.

The car industry is one element of manufacturing which has considerable oversight on it, ranging from safety standards to permissible levels of emissions, with the emergence of new technologies such as semi and fully-autonomous driving only likely to see Brussels reach for the rule book even more.

“We work both for the short and long term,” CLEPA president Roberto Vavassori told just-auto on the sidelines of the association’s annual Innovation awards ceremony in Rome. “Our vision is everything starts with innovation so we start lobbying with the relevant Directorates. We [work with] Connect, Move, Transport, Industry, these are the main DGs we are working with.

“We always ask them to be more holistic because our sector is one of the more regulated sectors. It is starting to happen, a bit too late probably because the Commission will only last to 2019 [when new members are appointed], but finally a mindset seems to be accepted and this is very important, huge to the industry.

“In these last years the appreciation of the supplier industry comes because we made the European Commission aware [that] 75%-80% value of a car is made by the component industry. In terms of employment, we are more relevant. With the occurrences in the car market sector, we are even more trusted than before [and] are asked from time to time to support the vision of the various Directorates.

The CLEPA president – newly elected for a further two years at the association’s General Assembly which ran alongside the awards ceremony – made his remarks as around 120 delegates from Europe-based suppliers gathered at the Parco dei Principe hotel under sweltering Roman skies.

An international jury made its decisions taking into account four criteria: ambition, market relevance, impact and quality in the fields of environment, safety, connectivity and cooperation.

The European supplier industry has considerable clout in Brussels, thanks in no small part to CLEPA’s lobbying efforts, which stress the EUR22bn R&D investment ploughed in by component manufacturers, while employing millions across the Continent.

“We have to take into consideration what we have to do to improve the quality of air, living in cities, how we move around and at the same time caring about the competitiveness of the sector,” added Vavassori. “This is the essence, [a] balanced, holistic approach.

“So many things are introduced in automotive and find their way into sectors in our daily lives. What we do in the process in automotive is certainly even more relevant. If we want Europe to continue to lead the world in technology we necessarily have to invest more and more in innovation and more than half the total CAPEX in innovation has been supplied by us, the suppliers.

“Suppliers are at least as important, they now say more important, than car assemblers or producers and this is a recognition 80% of the value of a car is made by components. Without suppliers, carmakers will have a difficult life.”

The CLEPA president also defended the industry, which has come under attack in some European capitals surrounding perceptions of air quality issues and floated the idea of cars by themselves not causing direct problems, but rather how they are used.

“We need to join forces to promote the mobility of the future,” he noted. “I also would like to renovate the narrative because suppliers are so relevant and still are relevant. But we have to somehow defend the idea the car is not the problem [rather] – maybe the way we use the car could be improved.

“It is important to us and our employees, to Europe.”