18th Spring Congress and General Assembly

23rd/24th May 2013

Thanks to all the participants


On 23rd and 24th May 2013, ECG held its 18th Spring Congress and General Assembly in the vibrant city of Dublin, recognising the Irish Presidency of the EU. Over 130 member-company representatives and guests took part in the event held in the prominent Westin Hotel, where the first day traditionally comprised of a Board Meeting preceding the statutory General Assembly.

The ‘members only’ session of the General Assembly began with ECG President Costantino Baldissara’s opening speech, welcoming in particular 6 new members since last year, followed by the Treasurer’s report and votes to accept the accounts and the budget.

ECG’s Vice-President Wolfgang Göbel kicked off the open session with his activity report of the past year’s achievements, followed by a series of detailed presentations from the Board Members in charge of the following ECG Working Groups: Maritime & Ports, Quality, Eastern Region, UK & Ireland Region, EU Affairs and Education & Training. They reported on their activities of the last year and mentioned future projects, while interactive questions using an integrated voting system kept the members closely involved. ECG’s future strategy was laid out by the Vice-President, who reported on some of the innovative thinking which came out of a dedicated Board meeting last March.

After the Board discharge came the customary award of a 'Golden Pin' to the two outgoing Board members: Treasurer Jean-Michel Floret (Groupe STVA) and Maritime & Ports Commission Chairman Bjorn Svenningsen (UECC), for their outstanding services to the association.

The General Assembly ended with the election of a new Board (see link to the Press Release below) for the coming year, and the day culminated with a welcome dinner during which ECG proudly announced another 17 high-potential managers graduating from the 7th Course of the ECG Academy. All were rewarded with a Certificate in Automobile Logistics Management by the European Business School and the top student received the Giovanni Paci Award, which was presented by the ECG President together with Irish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Jim Higgins – who also delivered a warm welcome address during the dinner.

The Spring Congress itself took place on the second day and was opened by President Baldissara, followed by Executive Director Mike Sturgeon with a selection of results from the latest ECG Confidence & Cost Trend Quarterly Survey. John Canvin, Managing Director of Odette, gave an interesting overview of this OEM-backed organisation whose aim is to stimulate co-operation within the industry on issues such as B2B messaging and CO2 reporting. Traditionally active on the inbound side of logistics, Odette is interested to see what can be done on the outbound side and is looking to collaborate with ECG and the ACEA Automotive Logistics Working Group.

Arthur Maher, Director of Research at LMC Automotive concluded the first session with a gloomy outlook of Europe’s light vehicle production, entitled “Still in the Mud”. He highlighted the current demand backdrop linked to a slowing down of economic growth in the EU, low consumer confidence and high unemployment, with the only upside being growth in the key export markets. While touching on European OEM’s unevenly distributed plant utilisation rates, Maher ended with an outlook warning for a further financial squeeze which could lead to price cutting, deeper alliances, further drops in capacity utilisation and the potential for a renewed crisis of superfluous stock.

The second session of the congress saw the European Commission’s Claire Whittaker deliver an insight into DG MOVE’s planned policies to further achieve sustainable freight transport in the EU, as it is expected to grow by 80% by 2050. While acknowledging logistics as a driver for growth and a provider of jobs, challenges such as scarce energy resources and climate change need to be addressed by, for example, the “Clean Power for Transport” package and the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation. Of particular importance to ECG is the current review of Directive 96/53/EC on weights and dimensions of road vehicles, though she admitted that the Commission had decided to focus on foreseeing length increases to allow the fitting of aerodynamic devices while leaving the problem of loaded lengths for car transporters outside of their new proposal. The reasoning provided was that while the Commission is aware of the specific problem in finished vehicle logistics, as it touches on the politically sensitive issue of loaded lengths it would have opened up a lot of "intensive" discussions which would have delayed the adoption of the whole directive. Whittaker continued with an overview of other topics ECG has been following closely, namely the €23bn currently foreseen in the ‘Connecting Europe Facility’ (CEF) for 2014-2020, the concept of E-freight, the continuation of the Marco Polo programme (which will be integrated in the CEF) and road user charging.

Following this insightful presentation, 2 keynote speeches took place by Maurice Mullen, Assistant Secretary at the Irish Department of Transport and MEP Jim Higgins, Member of the Transport & Tourism Committee in the European Parliament. Both high-level guests conveyed warm messages of welcome to Ireland, and took ample time to enlighten the audience with insights from their respective institutions – the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Both also acknowledged the role a trade association like ECG has in contributing to EU policy-making, and delved further in some important achievements the Irish Presidency was hoping to conclude by the end of June 2013 in the field of ports, maritime and rail transport. MEP Higgins was particularly supportive of ECG’s longstanding wish to attain a harmonisation of minimum loaded lengths for car transporters at 20.75m, and pledged his full support to ensure the Commission’s proposal would be amended in the European Parliament so as to achieve the joint objective of fuel efficiency in road freight.

Strengthened by this sign of support for the finished vehicle logistics sector, in his closing address ECG President Baldissara nevertheless highlighted the importance of the automotive industry for Europe and the devastating consequences for state incomes and national economies if the industry is not adequately supported by European policymakers. As the world is asking for cars “made in Europe”, the EU should find ways to incentivise the sector – for example by reinstating successful car scrapping schemes at EU level. He ended with a plea for ECG member-companies to communicate their views to the association so that a strong common position can be delivered in Brussels, and to continue their support to the ECG Board and Secretariat in doing so.