European automotive supplier body, CLEPA, said lending to smaller enterprises down the chain by major financial institutions, is a key part of fulfilling an ambitious set of targets set out yesterday (6 June) at the high-level CARS 21 meeting in Brussels.

CLEPA has called on the European Investment Bank (EIB) to ensure access to global loans to those companies further along the supply chain, while also simplifying lending procedures that meet the CARS 21 initiatives that now go to the European Commission for approval.

"Access to finance is one of the basic conditions for SMEs to develop their business and innovation," said CLEPA vice president and Dytech Group CEO, Guiliano Zucco. "This is particularly critical at times of restructuring."

The supplier body put the case for its smaller members at the day-long CARS 21 discussions in the Belgian capital also attended by OEMs and European Commission vice president Antonio Tajani among a raft of influential automotive representatives.

That CLEPA case included market access for SMEs while, in order to maximise export potential, the body said focus should be on eradicating non-tarrif barriers and IPR protection.

CLEPA CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, noted the auto industry was expected to invest heavily in high added value products in several market segments including small passenger cars.

These products featuring decarbonisation of road transport as well as advanced ICE powertrains, lightweight materials, safety, intelligent transport systems and manufacturing/engineering technologies.

"CLEPA expects the EU institutions to support this innovation path by allocating significant RDI resouces to road transport from Horizon 2020 in line with the size and the effort of the industry," he said.

However, one cloud CLEPA has identified is a shortage of skills although the body noted the planned European Automotive Employment and Skills Council will be "a useful tool" in providing closer links between universities and industry as well as sharing best practices such as trainee and apprenticeship systems across the continent.