Last month, the Automotive PR international partners met in London at Torque’s (the UK partner and founding member) office in London Bridge. The meeting was the first to be attended by Brussels-based agency Evoke, who joined the network as APR Belgium in December.

In addition to general administration and discussing developments within the network, the meeting provided the perfect opportunity to gain an insight into each partner’s individual market and to share any recent trends in the local automotive sectors.

The environment and electric cars

The environment continues to play a big role in policies and automotive strategies across Europe. The Belgian government has been constantly introducing new laws and measures to reduce CO2 emissions, which is expected to continue in the coming years. Though diesel has always been less expensive than regular unleaded fuel, diesel prices are now catching up with regular fuel prices due to the fact that it’s more polluting. As a result, the market is experiencing a significant drop in diesel car sales.

As for electric cars, sales in the Netherlands are expected to continue to grow in market share, but are still rather small in absolute numbers. The topic is also a big issue in Poland, where the government is debating support for an electric car project. At the moment, the country has no automotive OEM brand, but new technology offers new opportunities and job prospects. Many are taking the talks with a pinch of salt though, and suspect that the proposals are simply propaganda to paint the conservative government in a modern light.

Out with the new, in with the old?

Distributors in Poland are seeing growth in the aftermarket, with increases of about 30%. Private imports of used cars are very common, which is a key factor in the average vehicle in the country being over 10 years old. New car sales are rising too, however, especially in the premium segment.

In the Netherlands, sales of new automobiles are stable, though the number of dealerships is still on a rapid decline. This has been caused by overcapacity in the market, upscaling and a decreasing amount of contract partners for importers.

Beyond European borders

Across the pond, industry analysts predict a slight dip in annual new-vehicle sales in North America, but overall sales are expected to continue at a relatively strong pace throughout the coming year.

The overall strength in the US market was apparent last month, with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Detroit motor show (NAIAS) both taking place. CES continues to grow in importance as a major event for automotive news, with autonomous and electric cars dominating trade media coverage.

Further south, 2017 was a record year for the Mexican automotive industry. This arose despite US President Donald Trump demanding that Mexico-based US OEMs relocate back to the United States as part of his “America First” drive to create more US jobs. Output was up 9% in 2017 compared to 2016 and exports increased by 12%. Out of all vehicles sold in America, 14% are made in Mexico.

In Brazil, the automotive industry has made some progress, though continues to struggle. As a result of policies introduced back in the 1950s, 90% of vehicles sold in Brazil are made in the country and subject to an innovation-dampening requirement that requires content along the entire value chain to be locally sourced. Many believe the sector is in desperate need of a new vision, based on specialisation to fit into the global value chain instead of attempting to replicate the whole industry within its own borders. This shift will require opening the domestic market for imports, and make finished vehicles and auto parts competitive through increased exports on the international market.

The good news is that the Brazilian automotive sector was on its way to recovery in 2017. It was the first year of growth in light vehicle demand following a four-year decline that halved sales. Vehicle manufacturing in January 2018 was up 23% compared to January last year, and truck production was up 56% in the same period. 

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This story was written by automotive PR specialists Torque Agency Group.