Automotive Economy and sustainable mobility: the challenges

The automotive world, intended as an industrial, commercial and fuel distribution sector, still plays a major role in the country’s economy, with a turnover of around 350 billion euro, or 20% of the national GDP, and 1.25 million workers employed in a variety of jobs. It goes without saying that such figures deserve a medium-long term political strategy and adequate measures to support the industry, one of the country’s vital supply-chains, also in the light of the investments listed in the National Resilience and Recovery Plan in favour of a more sustainable mobility. A table recently created by the Ministry of Economic Development and chaired by the Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti and Vice-minister Gilberto Pichetto, will play a fundamental role in the future and stability of the sector.


Recently, the first meeting was held with participation of over 40 representatives from a variety of associations, companies and trade unions, who discussed the most significant topics and challenges facing the industry now and in coming years: from the need for a more sustainable mobility to the natural technological evolution of motor vehicles. All stakeholders in attendance favoured a constructive working method open to contributions from everyone involved. Several sessions have been planned, one dedicated to the industrial transition of vehicle and component manufacturers while a second will be dedicated to the infrastructures necessary to support the widespread distribution of electric and hydrogen powered vehicles as well as other alternative fuels. "We have initiated a necessary debate - said Giorgetti - in view of the technological and environmental transformation of the sector. To address this phase, we find consolidated guidelines found in the NRRP recently approved by the government and the EU Commission. This inevitable technological and eco-sustainable transformation is a challenge and a process that must be managed, not only in terms of production, but also for the social impact it will have. We are here as Ministry and Government because we have the duty of leading this crucial industrial process for the development of our economy". What sort of scenario welcomed the first automotive working table?  According to the latest data (available at the time of writing the article ed.) in Europe the month of May saw 165,363 newly registered commercial vehicles, 51.3% more than the same month back in 2020 which experienced strong restrictions due to the spread of the Covid virus, but over 30,000 less than pre-pandemic levels. This was announced by Acea, the Association of European Manufacturers. Among the four main markets, the highest growth took place in Spain (+89.6%), followed by Italy (+51.3%), Germany (+46.4%) and France (+28.4%). In the first five months of 2021, demand grew by 43.9% with a total of 838,941 registrations. All four major European markets are growing: Italy (+69.5%), France (+55.2%), Spain (+51.9%) and Germany (+20.3%). However, figures in the commercial vehicle sector still show signs of stagnation in Italy with 17,750 units registered compared to 17,826 in the same month of 2019 (-0.4%, the comparison with 2020 is still unreliable).


The first 5 months, according to the estimates of the Unrae Studies and Statistics Centre, reduce growth to a modest +1.6% with 80,756 vehicles against the 79,509 in January-May 2019. The market structure in the first quarter confirms the positive trend of private buyers, stable at 23% of the market share. "It is not surprising - said Michele Crisci, president of Unrae, the Association of Foreign Vehicle Manufacturers - that the commercial vehicle market in May stalled, once the contribution of the incentives introduced with the Budget Law 2021 ended.  As repeatedly stated, thanks to the support of the Ecobonus Fund, it was possible to accelerate the renewal of a circulating fleet, that at the end of 2020 had an average age of 12 and a half years and still had 46% of pre-Euro 4 vehicles, with the registration of modern vehicles that have generated positive effects on emissions, road safety and for the coffers of the State". Although down, car registrations maintained a 4.8% penetration rate (-1.4 %) and long-term rentals dropped to 20.9% penetration (-2.3 %). Short-term rental and companies recovered share, representing 5.7% and 45.6% of the market respectively. In terms of fuel, petrol vehicles experienced a significant drop in volumes (about 30%) falling to 3.2% market penetration, while diesel vehicles fell slightly, accounting for 85.5% of registrations (down 2.8 %). On a different note, there was a double-digit increase in LPG powered vehicles, which rose to a 2.6% of the share, while a sharp decline in CNG powered vehicles reduced their share to 2%. There was a strong increase in hybrid vehicles, now 5.8% of the market, while in the first four months of the year electric vehicles accounted for just under 1%.