New international challenges: innovation and flexibility
The export of Italian components confirms a growing trend. But there are uncertainties about future scenarios
"The international scenario currently displays a growing sentiment of uncertainty, from changes in US trade policies to a slowing Chinese economy, to name but a few. Up to now, Italian components manufacturers have always kept up with the global evolution of the sector - also thanks to their high propensity for product and process innovation and their ability to adapt to changing demands - and therefore have all the credentials to face these further challenges, through ongoing research and development in new technologies". These words were uttered by Marco Stella, president of the Anfia Components Group, commenting on recent data on the performance of the automotive sector and in particular, components: in 2018, the automotive components chain exported goods for 22.4 billion euro, up 5% compared to 2017. In the same period there was also an increase, albeit slight, in imports of components (+0.5%), for a value of 15.6 billion euro, resulting in a positive trade balance of about 6.8 billion euro, 17% higher than 2017.
"The popularity of Italian components was, therefore, confirmed by the growing trend recorded also in 2018, closing with excellent results despite a slight decline in the second half of the year - explains Marco Stella - and from July 2018, even the production index, orders and turnover from car parts and accessories have slowed down. At the end of 2018, the production index was -2.3%, the turnover index was down by 0.9%, with internal demand down by 7.5%, balanced by a +6.6% turnover from exports, and the order index closed at -3%, here too due to a drop in the domestic demand (-8.1%) as opposed to +2.6% of foreign-bound components".
"This negative trend - he concludes - continued in the month of January 2019, when orders for automotive components on the domestic market were down 14.4%, in the context of a sharp contraction (-25%) in domestic car production. On the other hand, the entire automotive industry is going through a phase of major changes, driven mainly by EU policies to reduce emissions, which have imposed a rapid shift towards electrification, which requires, for many companies, a change in production processes and therefore substantial investments”.
Going back to the figures, in 2018, Italy's total exports grew by 3% compared to the previous year, as did imports, which increased by 5.4%. The trade surplus reached 39.8 billion euro, plus 81.2 billion net of energy. The industrial production index in the automotive sector, on the other hand, shows a downward trend of 3.4% in 2018. The index for the production of bodies for motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers manage to score positive figures although growth was somewhat dampened to 5.6% and, finally, the automotive parts and components index decreases by 2.3%. As far as orders, automotive parts and accessories fell by 3%, due mostly to a slackening domestic market (-8.1%), while demand from abroad rose by 2.6%. The automotive parts and components turnover index decreased by 0.9%, with a -7.5% from the domestic market and an increase of 6.6% from exports. The new trucks & buses market is also interesting: in terms of volumes, in 2018, 175,201 vehicles were imported (+1.8%) and 293,960 vehicles were exported (+7.3%). In detail, imports concerned 169,936 road transport vehicles and special transport (+0.6%) and 5,265 buses (+58.4%), while exports concerned 292,632 transport vehicles (+7.3%) and 1,328 buses (+14.9%). The trade balance is rather positive as transport vehicles exports were 122,696 units higher than imports and over 1.2 billion euro in value, while imported buses outscored exports by 3,937 units and 606 million euro in value. 58% of imported trucks & buses were EU made while extra-EU vehicles were only 35% mostly from Turkey. 83% of the vehicles exported were destined to EU countries, 5% towards extra-EU countries with Brazil as the most important market followed, but with rather small quotas, from Switzerland and Turkey.