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Massimo Brunamonti

Coronavirus: Egea calls for support measures for the supply chain in a letter to the European Commission

The Coronavirus has hit Europe hard and nobody knows what the consequences will be in the short and medium to long term. The resulting health emergency has been compounded by an unprecedented economic and financial emergency and this will, according to many, be accompanied by social changes that will introduce further uncertainties in an already hazy future. However, despite the scenario, road hauliers and other mobility entities, even if negatively affected, stressed the importance of their services. Egea (the European Garage Equipment Association), along with other aftermarket associations, wasted no time in pointing out to the European Commission that the sector deserves the utmost attention. This is the meaning of the letter sent to Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, and Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Transport, in which Egea asks to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and post-emergency plans, stressing the need for support measures on behalf of the whole chain. The letter highlights the key role played by the sector on behalf of both the European economy and society. People’s mobility, distribution of goods, public transport not to mention essential services such as health services and public order, revolve around the availability of goods and after-sales services organised around a system based on a plurality of independent companies and enterprises, mostly SMEs, able to guarantee a continuity of services and a widespread geographical coverage vital for Europe. In addition, the sector that has been entrusted with guaranteeing the safety and compliance with emission limits of almost 310 million four-wheeled vehicles across the continent. The Covid-19 emergency itself highlighted the importance of the sector at a time when food supplies along with other necessities and services, had to be guaranteed as citizens were locked at home.

The first dramatic consequences of the pandemic were immediately felt throughout the sector: a dramatic reduction in demand, a drop in liquidity, serious doubts about how companies would manage to sustain themselves and maintain the necessary levels of employment, with the risk that a health crisis would be followed by a dramatic economic and social crisis. What EGEA and other associations are demanding from the European Commission is a serious, multi-level intervention capable of avoiding all this. There is a need for effective support to combat the lack of liquidity, especially for SMEs, which could jeopardise their short to medium-term survival. At a broader level, in addition to plans for subsidies to promote development, there is a need for a coordinated effort, at European level, to prevent the multiplying of local initiatives that would inevitably generate cross-country barriers with bureaucratic and administrative burdens and the consequent fragmentation of the market and an end to the free movement of goods.

However, in order to pursue all this, legislators need to be aware of the value of the sector and make political choices aimed at creating the necessary initiatives. It is vital that all the actors meet at a political summit to identify the necessary measures to promote the development and competitiveness of the sector. Last but not least, discussions should not focus solely on the immediate future, especially considering a scenario of great changes in the way we perceive mobility in general: digital services, future mobility systems and green economy are all issues which, although apparently overshadowed by the virus emergency, persist and are destined to affect the future. What is important now is not to forget the ambitious plans already implemented by Europe and dedicate the necessary financial, technical and human resources in an attempt to turn them into reality. With or without Covid, there is a future. One that, once the crisis is over, will dawn upon us, perhaps at different times and ways, and it would be suicidal to ignore its size and scope.


Egea meets the European Commission on free access to the Obd port

Issues surrounding free access to the Obd ports is becoming increasingly complicated: several car manufacturers have introduced, or are in the process of doing so, new restrictions that somehow violate the right of independent garage operators to access vehicle diagnosis systems in a non-discriminatory manner and consequently jeopardize their business. This is what was stated during a teleconference with the European Commission for the Internal Market, Industry and Entrepreneurship, on April 28, during which an EGEA delegation met (via internet due to travelling restrictions, courtesy of Coronavirus) the representatives of the C/4 Automotive and Mobility office, led by Joanna Szychowska, responsible for motor vehicle approval-type policies.

During the meeting, Egea pointed out that, after first introducing, back in 2017, an access ban mechanism (the so-called Security Gateway), other manufacturers are following with similar initiatives that would introduce unlawful discrimination, inappropriate difficulties and additional costs. The justification for restricting access is, for the manufacturers, the need to ensure the IT security of the vehicle. Nothing to object: road safety nowadays requires IT security; but security has nothing to do with discrimination, let alone with business protection; Egea maintains that it may be, in fact, necessary to introduce an access control mechanism, but on one condition: avoiding that the vehicle manufacturer will arbitrarily decides who to admit, with what diagnostic tool or, even worse, to use this information not so much to trace legitimately any work performed on the vehicle, but to develop a business around it from a position of prevalence.

Another vital aspect that deserves consideration, is the foreseeable economic consequences of a proliferation of different access mechanisms. Beside the cost of access "per session", which by law must be proportionate to use, different access modes and tools for different manufacturers will inevitably lead to a multitude of software and probably also of hardware and digital platforms with a significant increase in costs. The reason? To “safely” access the Obd port, i.e. doing exactly the same things but in a different ways and with different tools. Without being polemical, if we had cooperated for the development of the Sermi protocol, perhaps the problem would no longer exist. During the meeting, Egea presented a list of vehicles, by several manufacturers, which appear to feature some non-compliance with existing legislation (Euro 5) or in the process of implementation (new Regulation 858/2018/EU). The Euro 5 protocol, through Regulations 715/2007/EC and 692/2008/EC, requires the manufacturer to ensure and demonstrate the conformity of the vehicle undergoing type-approval also with regard to accessibility to the Obd port. Such non-conformities would also violate the general concept of free competition between organised and independent operators (repairers and equipment manufacturers), which is the basis of Regulation 566/2011/EU on access to repair and maintenance information.

According to the same Regulations, only national authorities or agencies are responsible for conformity checks on vehicles; with the entry into force, next September, of the new 858/2018 Regulation, the Commission will take on new tasks, such as monitoring and supervising the work of national authorities. This being so, the response of the members of the Commission to EGEA’s request was that today and pending the new Regulation, the Commission has no power of action, but will bring the matter to the table of the Mvwg (Working Group on Motor Vehicles) where all the actors in the sector are represented. In parallel, the Commission has invited Egea to submit requests for conformity assessment to the competent national authorities, particularly those that have granted type-approval.

Egea, therefore, decided to follow the path already taken in 2018. At that time, Egea turned to the 3rd Division of the General Direction of Motorisation, the Italian type-approval body. The Division was immediately activated and started a process through which the problem, even if not solved, was mitigated: the manufacturer made available a software (called "wrapper") that could be installed on multi-brand diagnostic tools which is able to access the Obd port after issuing individual access certificates. Given the proliferation of cases, contacting the various approval authorities will be a complex and costly process, but Egea believes that the path of dialogue is the correct one, as demonstrated by the “wrapper” case, especially when the legislation speaks quite clearly and in favour. In a scenario that is becoming even more complicated with the entry into force of Regulation 858 and future decrees relating to cybersecurity, this is precisely the time to lay the foundations for protecting the right of thousands of independent operators.

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