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Towards a competitive and sustainable EU automotive industry

Towards a competitive and sustainable EU automotive industry


European Commission communication COM(2012) 636 final — Action plan for a competitive and sustainable automotive industry



Known as the CARS 2020 action plan, it creates a strategy to reinforce the automotive industry’s competitiveness and address climate, environmental and societal challenges that stem from the industry.

The action plan focuses on 4 main areas:

  • investing in advanced technologies and financing innovation;
  • improving market conditions;
  • enhancing competitiveness on global markets; and
  • anticipating and managing restructuring.


  • Investing in advanced technologies and financing innovation: the European Commission (EC) plans to foster the development of new, clean and safe technologies through investments from programmes like Horizon 2020 and COSME. Meanwhile, the European Investment Bank will continue to offer loans and loan guarantees to the automotive research and innovation projects.
  • Improving market conditions: the EC will aim to ensure that the large automotive manufacturing base remains in the EU by providing favourable business conditions. Actions that strengthen the internal market (e.g. financial incentives for clean, energy-efficient vehicles) alongside smart regulation (i.e. well-designed, relevant and cost-effective laws that benefit both citizens and business) will help achieve this goal.
  • Enhancing competitiveness on global markets: the EC will conduct international trade policy (e.g. free trade agreements) with the goal of maintaining a strong and competitive automotive manufacturing base in the EU. The EC will also promote the international harmonisation of vehicle regulations, which will reduce technical barriers to trade.
  • Anticipating and managing restructuring: the EC will help foster skill development and training in the automotive industry in order to adapt production capacities to new realities, like evolving markets and new technologies. The EC supports the establishment of European automotive skills councils and will encourage the use of the European Social Fund for retraining and reskilling workers.
  • In this action plan, the EC proposes the launch of a CARS 21 High Level Group, which has the aim of monitoring the implementation of the action plan. In October 2014, the group completed a final report, which outlines achievements and indicates the direction for future, short and medium-term actions.


The automotive industry provides approximately 12 million jobs in the EU and adds a significant contribution to the EU’s trade balance (€90 billion in 2011). It also has an important multiplier effect in the economy, as it is linked to other sectors like the chemical, steel and textile industries.

However, the automotive industry has faced several problems in recent years, such as the loss of jobs and the closure of plants in the wake of the global financial crisis, or the fact that road transport represents a main source of air pollution. Therefore, the EC deemed it crucial to come up with this action plan to address these problems.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — CARS 2020: Action Plan for a competitive and sustainable automotive industry in Europe (COM(2012) 636 final of 8.11.2012)


CARS 2020 Report on the state of play of the outcome of the work of the High Level Group, European Commission, October 2014

last update 21.03.2016