Gist of the opinion
Vehicle manufacturers and vehicle dealers both face stiffer competition, leading to ever-diminishing profit margins. As a result, the downstream markets are becoming ever more important, with vehicle manufacturers playing a dominant role vis-à-vis independent operators.
The EESC feels that the ongoing restructuring of the aftermarket sector will result in the emergence of a range of new partnerships (not least with other civil society players) and new forms of customer relationships. Given the automotive sector's close links with other sectors and the highly diversified nature of the supply industry and vehicle trade, any form of restructuring that involves major adverse impacts for SMEs also impacts on hundreds of thousands of workers in the Member States. The EESC thus feels that that the Commission should monitor restructuring developments on the aftermarket sector closely and act if necessary to safeguard competition.
In line with the Lisbon strategy, the Committee therefore recommends setting up a high-level group which, drawing on the CARS 21 findings, would be responsible for outlining future prospects once the crisis is over and determining areas for action. Given developments in the automotive industry as a whole, the following priorities should be set: ongoing development of the legal framework/access to free and fair competition, implementation of the Lisbon strategy, upskilling needs, innovation, consumer issues, trade policy, social aspects.
To safeguard both the quantity and quality of jobs, increase worker mobility and generally boost the attractiveness of the sector, it is vital that the sector and the individual companies also address the social challenges involved. Above all, consideration must be given to demographic change, the development of lifelong training and further training models, and new workplace health and safety requirements. The Committee therefore calls on the relevant players and the Commission to press ahead with social dialogue at all levels (within the sector, nationally and in companies).