Sánchez puts the handbrake on car recovery in 2021


Updated:12/31/2020 05: 29h


The year 2020 never promised them happy for the car. Before the coronavirus, the dealers’ employers, Faconauto, already estimated a 3% drop in registrationsThis is the result, among other factors, of the regulatory uncertainty surrounding the sector and the doubts about the future of diesel and gasoline engines. But the pandemic has multiplied the bad omens tenfold.

Two months after factories and dealerships closed, numerous restrictions on mobility and trade have been added. The sector now expects to close the year with only 840,000 cars sold, between 30 and 35% less. On the side of vehicle manufacturing, a 19% drop is expected this year. And the one that comes will also be the last one in which the three Nissan plants in Catalonia will remain open, unless there is one or more industrial partners that take the witness of the Japanese. The market scenario is far from the one and a half million cars that the president of Faconauto, Gerardo Pérez, considers “reasonable, healthy and robust”. And expectations of improvement for 2021 have been blurred after the Executive of Pedro Sanchez has refused to avoid a massive increase in car prices in January.

The automobile, which accounts for 11% of GDP and employs 9% of the workforce, “is thus exposed to a prolonged crisis,” according to the automobile employers. His forecast now is that the recovery from the Covid crisis will last until 2022, since the fiscal blow will take ahead the sale of 110,000 cars in 2021. One of the consequences will be the destruction of between 16,000 and 18,000 jobs in dealerships , according to Faconauto.

Spain will be the only major market in the European Union that will not prevent consumers from having to bear the fiscal impact of new emissions tests, called WLTP. Being stricter, the same car emits more and, therefore, pays more in the countries that tax CO2 emissions. To avoid this, Portugal has opted for an in-depth reform of its registration tax (a tax that other countries such as Germany or the Czech Republic do not have), while France and Italy have raised the threshold from which a vehicle has to pay. The sector asked to apply an identical formula in Spain, but the Executive has chosen to ignore it. “The prudent thing is not to do that review and stay as we are,” said the Fourth Vice President and Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, after Congress knocked down a similar proposal, with the votes of PSOE, Podemos, ERC and Bildu.

The intention of the Government was to address the car tax reform before it was transferred to car prices – in 2018 it approved an extension for tax purposes, which is the one that now expires. But the difficulties in forming a government, first, and the arrival of the pandemicAfterwards, they have once again postponed this historic claim by the sector, now scheduled for 2021. As a consequence, around 50% of the models on sale will start the year with a significant price increase. The average increase will be 4.75%, about 800 euros per car. It won’t affect electrics or many of the hybrids.

The “hachazo” will hit only the Spanish market, precisely the one that falls the most among the large European countries. Exports in recent months prove how manufacturers have had to take refuge abroad. The weight of sales abroad has increased to 85.7%, when last year it was around 81.4%. But the weakness of the national market – the main destination for cars manufactured in Spain – may have consequences, and even more so in a country that, despite being the second largest producer in Europe, does not host the headquarters of any manufacturer. Decisions are made outside our borders, in a scenario of reborn nationalism and in which each country tries to ensure the production of electricity.

The sector, in an unprecedented joint press conference between the presidents of the main associations – Faconauto, Anfac (manufacturers), Ganvam (sellers) and Sernauto (suppliers) – he warned of his “unsustainable situation”, and put on the table that the measures launched by the Government “are not achieving recovery and, at times, are contradictory.” The president of Anfac, José Vicente de los Mozos, went further: “We see that the automobile is not a country project because there is a dichotomy of models,” he criticized. “There is a model that is committed to electrification, but there is another model that does not want cars. The signals that are sent abroad are worrying, “he said.

The Executive has sought to calm the sector with the promise that it will receive 14% of European recovery funds after the coronavirus, around 10 billion euros. But the fine print has caused blisters. The European game includes games that will end up in the hands of other sectors. An example is the 1,500 million euros for renewable hydrogen, most of which will go to energy companies. Like the 6,000 planned to expand the recharging infrastructure network for electricity, they say. And in addition, it has already been seen how previous promises have been left by the wayside – 85% of the Renove Program to scrap a car has not yet been spent and the regional distribution of Moves has generated a great headache.

Still, the funds are expected to help boost power sales (currently 2% of the market) and charging infrastructure. Ecological Transition seeks projects of this type until January 29 to allocate 1,100 million. And the Government also wants them to serve to accelerate the arrival of electricity to Spanish factories. “We are going to accelerate transformations that could have taken ten years in just three,” he promised in November the Minister of Industry, Reyes Maroto. His department has launched a public consultation to identify opportunities, open until January 20. An example is Seat, which in June promised to invest 5,000 million, in exchange for the “collaboration” of the administrations. Another is Opel, which has committed an investment of 220 million to expand production in Figueruelas, which already manufactures the Corsa-e. Further, Raül Blanco, Secretary of Industry, He advanced that he hopes to give “good news” soon about the arrival of two battery factories. And the components association Sernauto has outlined projects for the value chain of batteries, hydrogen and connected mobility, which would require 5.3 billion.

January, key for Renault, PSA and Fiat

January will be key for the two great French manufacturers. On the 4th the shareholders’ meeting of Peugeot-Citroen, the leading producer by volume in Spain, will vote on its merger with Fiat-Chrysler. If they support the operation, both could complete their merger that same month, after Brussels has given its approval on competition matters. Meanwhile, on the 14th, Luca de Meo will reveal his strategic plan «Renaulution» for Renault. Until that date, the negotiations of the collective agreement in its three Spanish plants have been paralyzed.

Tactical selling drives the market in December

Vehicle registrations on the positive ground in December, after several months of heavy falls. Until Tuesday, sales of passenger cars and SUVs registered an increase of 3%, according to data from the consultancy AutoInfor, which places Seat as the best-selling brand in the year. Despite everything, the year will close with a decline of more than 30%. In 2020 they only grew in July, by 1.1%, due to the impounded demand during the months of total closure of the activity.

This month, self-registration or sales tactics that automakers make themselves are up 34%, to 6,523 units. And that December 2019 already registered high figures for these operations, as shown by the fact that on the last business day of the year 12% of the cars for the entire month were sold.

So the brands bought themselves gasoline cars, in order to give them output as “kilometer 0” in 2020 and thus get closer to the recently released emissions targets of the European Union. They establish –as of this year– penalties for manufacturers whose range exceeds average emissions of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

Purchase «fake» of electric

This December the situation is even more complicated. On the one hand, the sector is buying cars for itself to avoid minimizing the increase in the registration tax from day 1, due to the arrival of the new WLTP emissions tests. And on the other, next year the European emissions target will be further toughened, since it applies to 100% of the range of each brand (and not, as before, to 95% less polluting) and each electric car and Plug-in sold will count as 1.67 when computing for the penalty (today it counts as 2).

As a consequence, in the first three weeks of the month 8 times more electric cars have been self-registered, according to MSI data collected by Europa Press, with 509 cars. Meanwhile, ‘Tactical’ registrations of plug-in hybrids diesel rose 13,100%, with 132, and gasoline plug-in hybrids increased 724%, with 445. Throughout the year dealers have registered in a ‘tactical’ way 3,670 ‘zero emissions’, 137% more.

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