Speech Bolkestein over de nieuwe richtlijn voor auto-onderdelen (en)

dinsdag 14 september 2004, 14:03

Mr Frits Bolkestein

Member of the European Commission, in charge of the Internal Market, Taxation and Customs

Proposal on car spare parts

Communication of Mr. Bolkestein to the European Parliament plenary session
Strasbourg, 14 September 2004

Honourable Members of the European Parliament

It is with great pleasure that I inform you that the Commission has adopted today a proposal that modifies national regimes of design protection, so as to liberalise the after-market in spare parts for repair purposes.

Following the opinion of the Parliament in favour of liberalisation, the Commission attempted to harmonise and liberalise the market before in 1996. The Member States were, at the time, not able to agree with the view shared by the Commission and the Parliament. Instead, they requested the Commission to revisit the subject at a later date, which is what we have done today.

The proposal, which is of particular importance to the market in automobiles, would remove Internal Market barriers that have thus far remained. It would allow independent part manufacturers to compete throughout the EU market for visible, `must-match' replacement parts, such as bonnets, bumpers, doors, lamps, windscreens and wings. Potentially, this market is worth up to 10 billion Euros annually.

Non-visible parts, like engine or mechanical parts, are not concerned by the proposal. Neither are components in new vehicles. At most, only 25% of the entire spare part market will be affected.

However, in this part of the market, the proposal has significant benefits:

First, the proposal would give consumers better choice and value when they buy spare parts. The Commission estimates that spare parts are 6 to 10 % more expensive in Member States where they are subject to design protection. People are entitled to value for money throughout a vehicle's life. This proposal will help them get it.

Second: employment. Liberalisation should have a positive net-impact on EU jobs, benefiting SMEs in particular. New jobs should be created by the growth of the market both in production and in distribution of spare parts. EU parts manufacturers will be able to produce in the EU parts for supplying important export markets. They will also gain access to the 15 % market of imported cars. Car-makers from Japan or any other third country manufacturing or selling in the EU would no longer be able to keep EU producers out of the market.

Third, Europe's competitiveness would benefit. The lack of harmonised rules is burdensome for companies. Independent part manufacturers remain squeezed out of the market for visible replacement parts in many Member States. Under the proposal, car manufacturers would moreover retain full and exclusive rights covering the use of designs for the production and sale of new vehicles. That is sufficient to reward their investment in design and to maintain a strong incentive to innovate.

Fourth, and finally, a remark on safety. The liberalisation of design protection for replacement car parts has no impact on safety. Design protection covers only the outward appearance of products. The proposal would therefore not affect the safety or quality of spare parts. Safety standards are governed by other EU and national laws. They set objective minimum standards for all spare parts. All producers would continue to have to respect these. However, the Commission will, independently of the adoption of this proposal today, undertake a study to ensure that all safety concerns will be covered by those directives.

As you are aware, this proposal has already been the subject of very intense lobbying on the part of car manufacturers, and they are about to turn the full focus of their attention on you, as Members of the European Parliament. This campaign has been a classic example of the narrow vested interests of the few, namely a handful of large car manufacturers with huge resources, trying to undermine the broader interests of the many, namely car owners throughout Europe. I appeal to you to stand firm, as the Commission has done.

After all, the Commission's proposal strikes the right balance. It protects the advantages of design protection where it matters, in the primary market for new cars. But it also makes sure that goods can move freely throughout the EU, and that competition is not distorted by indefensible monopolies.

Thank you