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"The automotive industry, mother of all industries, is in the eye of the storm"

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Ford decided, Thursday, December 13, to refuse the offer to take over its factory in Blanquefort (Gironde), near Bordeaux, preferring a social plan and a final production stop in August 2019.
Ford decided on Thursday, December 13, to refuse the offer to take over its factory in Blanquefort (Gironde), near Bordeaux, preferring a social plan and a final production stop in August 2019. NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP

Chronic. Donald Trump and Bruno Le Maire do not fray. And for pretty much the same reasons. The US president storms against General Motors' decision to close four factories in the US, and the French economy minister against Ford who wants to shut down the Blanquefort plant near Bordeaux while a resumption proposal is on the way. table. Mr. Mayor is all the more furious that he had personally invested in the file. In both cases, the politicians do their job, that of defending threatened employment, the health of their economy and increasingly fragile social stability.

Read also Factory Ford Blanquefort: Bruno Mayor denounces a "betrayal" after the rejection of the offer of recovery

However, they have not finished getting upset and should be prepared for much tougher battles on that front. Because the car industry, the mother of all industries, which employs 13 million people in Europe, is in the eye of the cyclone. All the planets that had been carefully aligned for five years – the return of buyers, the promise of the Chinese market, technological innovations – are diverge violently.

The market first. The United States has stalled since 2017 and China is showing signs of weakness for the first time in its history. November was the fifth consecutive month of decline in sales. Over the whole year, the fall could exceed 4%. Unpublished. In Europe, finally, where registrations fell by 8% in November, eliminating almost the rise of the beginning of the year. Only the French and Spanish markets are still positive, but at the price for France of the multiplication of aids to the purchase. 2019 should be sporty.

Turkeys of the ecological transition

Technology then. The political decision to accelerate both the end of the diesel and the switch to the electric is reflected in a hardening of standards never seen. In terms of CO2for example, the European Commission set the ambitious target of a 30% reduction between 2021 and 2030 in 2017. But Parliament is now calling for a 45% downturn. And he hopes that in 2025, in only six years, 35% of manufacturers' sales will be made with electric cars. Never seen in a long cycle industry where models are designed at least five years before their commercialization.

In order to meet such demands in record time, manufacturers need to thoroughly review their industrial tool and their supply chain. Electric cars require fewer parts and labor, and batteries, which represent more than a third of the value of the vehicle, come from China, Japan or Korea. Building a competitive sector in Europe will take ten years, if the industrial and political will is there. Meanwhile, closures, like that of Blanquefort may multiply and anger to rise. And not just ministers but whole populations who, like the "yellow vests" will send a simple message: we do not want to be the turkeys of the ecological transition. An inconvenient truth, but one that is imposing itself.

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