Wissmann: Global market for commercial vehicles remains on course for growth
International Press Workshop in Frankfurt – IAA has more exhibitors and greater area
Frankfurt am Main/Berlin, 22 June 2012. "Commercial vehicles are the backbone of modern industrialised societies. In Europe commercial vehicles carry around three quarters of all freight traffic. All the other modes of transport – inland shipping, aircraft and the railways – are dependent on trucks. Modern commercial vehicles ensure that the supermarket shelves are full, and deliver goods ordered on the Internet directly to the consumer. Commercial vehicles remain indispensable,” stressed Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). He was speaking to more than 150 journalists from Germany and abroad at the "International Press Workshop on commercial vehicles” in Frankfurt am Main. The Press Workshop is traditionally organised by the VDA in advance of the IAA Commercial Vehicles. High-ranking national and international representatives of the commercial vehicle industry provide information about innovations and developments in the world of commercial vehicles at Europe’s most important workshop for the media.
The 64th IAA Commercial vehicles, which will take place in Hannover from 20 to 27 September 2012, has as its slogan "Commercial vehicles: driving the future.” Wissmann underlined, "The slogan stands for the enormous drive for innovation in the industry and the great efficiency of commercial vehicles. The "drivers of the future,” for example the new and clean Euro-VI engines, will be on display at the IAA. The IAA will have exciting world premieres. We expect to see new ideas for optimising aerodynamics. We will experience the progress in alternative commercial vehicle drive trains – ranging from natural gas and hybrids to hydrogen and electric mobility. Innovations will also be presented that bring even greater safety.” All these topics will be discussed at numerous IAA specialist events and IAA congresses. "The preparations for the IAA are already running at full speed. We are looking forward to Hannover with confidence and can already say that this IAA Commercial Vehicles will have more exhibitors and cover a larger area than the successful IAA in 2010,” Wissmann stressed.
The commercial vehicle industry had emerged from the severe crisis of 2009 stronger than it was before, the VDA president said, adding: "The last two years have seen a great recovery. In Western Europe, sales of heavy commercial vehicles in 2011 climbed to around 262,000 units, which was a rise of 31 per cent compared with the crisis year of 2009.” The van markets, too, were "back in their stride,” Wissmann said. "However, it was not solely the markets that contributed to this development. The commercial vehicle industry has become even tougher and is reaping the benefits of its hard work. With new products, leaner processes and even better services on offer, manufacturers and suppliers have become more efficient and more profitable,” he stated.
But "this year the conditions have become rougher.” The commercial vehicle industry was feeling how the national debt crisis in some European countries was affecting demand. However, the severely affected markets (Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) amounted to only around 15 per cent of the entire sales volume: "Over the year 2012 we therefore expect new registrations of heavy trucks (over 6 t) in Western Europe to total between 256,000 and 250,000 units. That would be a drop of 2 to 4 per cent compared with last year. The sooner the finance markets can be stabilised, the faster the commercial vehicle markets will regain more dynamism,” the VDA president said.
Yet we should not restrict ourselves to looking at Europe. Wissmann added that the global truck market over 6 tonnes would continue to expand in 2012, climbing by 5 per cent to 3.27 million. He continued: "The US market is especially dynamic; it is expected to increase by around one fifth to 366,000 vehicles in 2012. This benefits in particular the German group brands, which have a market share of around 30 per cent.” The markets in Russia, Japan and India were also continuing to expand. Owing to the introduction of a new exhaust standard, Brazil was seeing a temporary fall in its figures. In the medium term, however, Brazil still had growth potential. China, the world’s largest commercial vehicle market, with well in excess of one million units, was having a break from expansion this year with a slight drop (of 3 per cent). "In the medium term, however, growth in China will continue,” Wissmann explained.
"Against the background of the difficult economic situation in Europe, trends among the commercial vehicle makers are actually good and the result of hard work,” the VDA president emphasised. In 2011 the German manufacturers increased their commercial vehicle production by just over one quarter to exceed 1.2 million units. In the first quarter of 2012 the German OEMs achieved another slight rise in domestic production – of 4 per cent to 106,300 commercial vehicles. However, Wissmann said, because it was strongly driven by investment, the market for heavy commercial vehicles was traditionally sensitive to economic trends. For example, sales of heavy commercial vehicles in Germany fell somewhat in the first five months (-6 per cent). But, he pointed out, the volume of transport was still increasing. Therefore, for the year as a whole only a slight fall was expected in new registrations of heavy commercial vehicles, down to 86,000 units (-3 per cent). New registrations of vans (up to 6 t), which showed a year-on-year fall of 3 per cent in the period from January to May, will continue to decline at this rate over 2012 as a whole. However, the German van market had expanded strongly in the two preceding years (by 16 and 18 per cent respectively).
The German makers of trailers and bodies also had a very successful year in 2011. Production of heavy semi-trailers almost doubled – from 40,000 to around 76,000 units. In the first quarter of 2012 the companies more or less maintained the high level of exports and production. On the German trailer market in 2012 a volume of about 56,000 new registrations of heavy semi-trailers and multi-axle trailers is expected, which equals last year’s level. The strength of the German manufacturers of trailers and bodies was underlined, Wissmann stated, by the fact that they had a market share of around 50 per cent in Western Europe.
Wissmann was optimistic, saying, "In the coming year of 2013 once again increasing dynamism may be expected – if the debt crisis has been overcome.” He added that current consensus forecast suggested growth of 0.8 per cent for the euro zone in 2013, and this would also mean that demand for commercial vehicles would pick up somewhat. "The basic prospects are also good: the transport market remains a growth market. In Germany road freight traffic will, according to the current medium-range forecast, rise by 3.3 per cent every year up to 2015. This growth will only be possible with modern, fuel-efficient commercial vehicles,” the VDA president underlined.
Modern trucks, he continued, had an "exemplary” ecological footprint, and this also applied to emissions of classical air pollutants. "Under the new Euro VI standard, commercial vehicles operate virtually pollution-free,” Wissmann stressed. It was therefore all the more important that the policy-makers now rapidly decide on the new tolls, so that the transport companies would have clarity for planning their investments. This had to include a separate, lower toll category for Euro VI vehicles, so that differentiation of emissions reflected in the truck tolls could also exert its ecologically positive effects with Euro VI.
Despite commercial vehicles’ impressive eco-footprint the European Commission had, with its White Paper on transport, once again taken up "the long obsolete approach of shifting transport from one mode to another,” was Wissmann’s criticism. The idea in Brussels was that by 2030, 30 per cent of all truck transports over 300 km should be moved to rail and waterborne transport. He emphasised: "As all experts know, in the case of long transports the railways have potential that should be exploited even better. But a total shift is the wrong approach. Anyone who believes that the railways and waterways can be fostered by putting unilateral burdens on road freight traffic is barking up the wrong tree. The efficiency of the transport system as a whole will suffer, and with it Europe as a business location. We therefore hope for a pragmatic, unbiased transport policy from Brussels. The age of ideological trench warfare is over.”
Wissmann called for an intelligent European transport policy to encourage smart innovations in all modes of transport, and drew attention to the concept of the long truck: two longer trucks transport the same volume as three conventional trucks. This offered potential savings in fuel and CO2 of up to 30 per cent. The long truck was therefore a "true eco-truck,” the VDA president underscored. Initial experience from the field trial in Germany showed that transport efficiency rises considerably. Wissmann added that the long truck could easily be used in conjunction with the rail network: "It is a partner of the railways in intermodal transport.” He also spoke in favour of allowing cross-border transport in the EU using long trucks: "If two Member States are agreed, Brussels should not get in the way. We therefore very much welcome the initiative of transport commissioner Siim Kallas aiming to repeal the existing ban.”
However, a high-performance transport infrastructure was also required for efficient freight traffic and passenger traffic: "Modern transport routes should therefore be made a policy focus for economic growth,” Wissmann demanded. The advantages of long-distance buses as "CO2 champions” should be better utilised by deregulation of the long-distance routes, Wissmann said, and continued: "In view of the high fuel prices in particular, buses offer a cheaper and greener alternative. Long distance buses could become Germany’s most socially positive form of long distance travel, if the politicians were to finally reduce the thicket of antiquated legal regulations and allow buses to operate long distance routes.” And local service buses emit an impressively low 75 grams of CO2 per person-kilometre: "This means they emit less CO2 than trams, subways or the railways,” Wissmann stressed, and pointed out that this calculation came from the German Federal Environment Agency. Buses also had unbeatable flexibility: "Buses are successful in particular in the emerging economies, where the metropolitan areas are growing quickly.” Introducing bus services needed far less time and money than building a rail-based local transport infrastructure.