Thirteen CEOs of European vehicle manufacturers and automotive suppliers met today with the EU commissioner for climate action, Wopke Hoekstra, for an automotive roundtable to discuss the green transition of the sector.

This was preceded by a meeting with Charles Michel, president of the European Council, ahead of next week’s EU summit on competitiveness.

According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), the auto industry is at a critical junction as it makes its biggest transformation in the last century, to meet the world’s most ambitious CO2 reduction targets for vehicles.

Automotive manufacturers and suppliers want to maintain production in Europe, keeping jobs and investment in the region. But they are currently facing a ‘perfect storm’ of fierce global competition for critical resources, funding, investments and customers, compounded by rising costs of doing business, a radically changing geopolitical landscape, and an electric vehicle market that is far from mature.

Given these profound challenges, Europe must strengthen its competitiveness and build a stronger business case for the auto industry’s green and digital transition, ACEA said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Hoekstra committed to holding this roundtable during his confirmation hearing in the European parliament, as he stepped into his role as climate commissioner late last year. Its aim was to identify the practical barriers to implementing the so called Green Deal, and possible ways to address these.

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Luca de Meo, CEO of Renault Group and president of ACEA said: “EU car manufacturers are strongly committed to decarbonisation, investing over EUR250bn in electrification but we cannot make this transition alone. Europe needs to create the conditions for competitiveness and market demand for electric vehicles. These include charging and hydrogen refilling infrastructure, a sufficient supply of critical raw materials, better access to finance, and market incentives.”

Matthias Zink, CEO automotive technologies at Germany’s Schaeffler and president of supplier lobby CLEPA said: “Europe’s automotive suppliers drive innovation and sustainability with EUR30bn in annual R&D investments and 1.7m direct jobs.

“Suppliers are key enablers of the transition, bringing smart and sustainable mobility solutions to market. However, in the context of a challenging economic environment, a downturn in EV adoption and diminishing profits within the supply chain, funding the transition becomes key. It is therefore crucial to ensure that framework conditions are in place to de-risk investments in innovative technologies and the transformation of facilities and our workforce.

“The regulatory framework must remain ambitious yet flexible to keep Europe competitive. This will help us reach our goals faster and more efficiently while also catering to consumer needs.”

During the roundtable, both European truck and bus manufacturers and automotive suppliers underscored the pressing need for getting zero emission trucks and buses on roads. The sector is committed to providing the right trucks and buses to move the road transport industry into fossil free solutions by 2040, focused on battery electric and hydrogen powered vehicles. Technology neutrality should remain a guiding principle ensuring that all technologies contribute to decarbonisation efforts.

Recognising that the internal combustion engine will continue to play a long term role in heavy duty transport, climate neutral solutions and other complementary technologies will be needed to meet climate targets.

But the overarching challenge persists. Achieving the CO2 reduction targets remains highly ambitious in the near absence of vital enabling conditions, such as a dense network of truck suitable charging and refuelling stations and a supportive carbon pricing framework to ensure cost parity for zero emission vehicles.

“The European auto sector is therefore calling on European policy makers to take ambitious action to address these concerns,” ACEA concluded.