On 11th and 12th October 2012, ECG held its Annual Conference in the centre of the beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic. Around 230 people from across the industry attended the pre-conference networking dinner in the Marriott Hotel which provided an opportunity for participants to meet in an informal atmosphere.
The next day the conference itself was opened by ECG President Costantino Baldissara who delivered a welcoming speech in which he urged governments to support car production and sales, and advocated the reintroduction of scrappage schemes to counter the fall of car sales in Europe by renewing its current ageing vehicle park. He also advocated that public authorities should introduce fiscal and financial incentives to encourage global automotive alliances to shift part of their worldwide production (back) to Europe. More specifically he mentioned export incentives and tax breaks for auto production and also called for a “fair and equitable co-operation between carmakers and logistics operators” while noting that the important relationship between the two was already improving. The ECG President then pointed out that the main problem for LSPs, especially in this crisis context, was the lack of confidence in the future which was preventing any further investments by the sector. This observation finally led him to ask Europe’s car companies to give their logistics providers “real long-term commitments to future employment.”
In the first plenary session, Christopher Ludwig, Editor of the Automotive Logistics & Finished Vehicle Logistics magazines, moderated a panel which gathered together ACEA’s Working Group - Automotive Logistics spokesperson Egon Christ and ECG Vice-President Wolfgang Göbel who gave a joint presentation about the ongoing meetings between both organisations, as a tangible sign of co-operation between the automotive and the finished vehicle logistics sectors. To complete the session, Jan Maly from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ben Waller from ICDP - the International Car Distribution Programme - gave presentations which provided global statistics and forecasts on both sectors, notably concerning vehicle flows by geographical region.
Two parallel sessions followed, one of them focusing on the current legislative issues faced by the sector at EU level and tackling hot topics such as weights and dimensions, cabotage and road charging. The panel was constituted by the European Commission’s Kristian Hedberg, Head of the Land Transport Unit at the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), Michael Nielsen, from the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and Joannes Van Osta from JCB. The other parallel session addressed the current volatility affecting the finished vehicle logistics sector. Capacity management, investment and vulnerability of trailer supply were among the topics discussed, together with the necessary improvement of the communication between OEMs and LSPs. The panellists of this session were Stefan Nilsson from Volvo Construction Equipment, Cyran Vanderhaeghen from Toyota Motor Europe, Günther Percht from Kässbohrer Transport Technik and Egon Christ speaking for Daimler.
The intensive morning programme ended with another two parallel sessions. One entitled “Vehicle Logistics Around the World” aimed at urging carmakers, importers and LSPs to share experiences and knowledge of different markets around the globe. The speakers were Altan Aytaç from Tofas (Fiat) Turkey, Uwe Schmitt from John Deere, Kirill Petrunkin from Autotechnoimport and Wolfgang Göbel speaking for Horst Mosolf. Focusing on “Operations” the purpose of the other session was to underline some of the practical challenges currently faced by the sector. Network engineering, driver shortages, urban deliveries, emission zones, ICT applications and non-standard fuel tanks were among the main issues put forward by Manuel Medina from SEAT, Ray MacDowall from ECM (Vehicle Delivery Service), Ruud Vossebeld from Inform and Tom Antonissen, EU Affairs Manager at ECG.
The future of vehicle logistics was debated after lunch during the closing plenary session which dealt with such topics as regulatory changes forthcoming at the EU level, the future of European mobility policy, the role of technology and Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and the particular importance of innovation in the sector. Mike Sturgeon, Executive Director of ECG, moderated a panel composed by Kristian Hedberg from the European Commission, Ben Waller from ICDP, Björn Klippel from TIM Consult and Jean-Marie Souvestre from STVA.
To conclude the session, as well as the conference, ECG President Baldissara emphasized the pressing need of new investments in the finished vehicle logistics sector and reiterated the request to OEMs to aim for longer term commitments with LSPs in order to secure their future viability. Mr. Baldissara ended by expressing a general sentiment that this year’s ECG Annual Conference was “one of the best organised in the past years.”