The Council approved the Data Governance Act (DGA)
After the acceptance by the European Parliament, the Council has today approved a new law to promote the availability of data and build thereby a trustworthy environment to facilitate their use of research and the creation of innovative new services and products. The new rules will apply 15 months after the entry into force of the Regulation.
CECRA very much welcomes the principles and underlying objectives of the Data Act, particularly with regard to the regulation of B2C and B2B data sharing. We fully endorse the principle of the data sovereignty of Users of connected products, including their right to assign access to the data generated through the use of their products to 3rd party service providers of their choice.
While the general principles and provisions of the Data Act are very welcome, we see a real need for specific legislation for the Automotive sector, to translate the principles and provisions of the Data Act into concrete, legal and technical measures for the automotive sector.
After five years of extensive evidence-gathering, data collection[i] and discussions with all stakeholders, the European Commission newly publicly committed in February 2022 to updating type approval regulation, making it fit for the digital age and for the green transition. This would include regulation of access to in-vehicle data, as a sector specific complementary legislation to the Data Act. The objective of promoting innovation in the automotive and mobility sector.
CECRA has always been open to discuss with all relevant stakeholders solutions with the aim to reinforce consumers rights, the separation of duties and to enhance competition in the market for automotive and mobility services.
The European Commission (EC) has over five years undertaken extensive evidence-gathering and data collection on the barriers to a level playing field for ‘Access to in-vehicle data and resources’ in the automotive aftermarket and mobility sector. It has engaged with all stakeholders, launched numerous public consultations and studies (e.g. JRC Study), and established a dedicated Working Group, which, over a six-month period, looked into what the market needs for innovation, effective competition, and consumer choice to be ensured in the context of an increasingly digitalised automotive sector. In 2018 AFCAR was also requested by the European Commission to participate in a Proof of Concept (PoC) to assess vehicle manufacturers’ Extended Vehicle (ExVe) model against the needs of the wider automotive servicing sector as regards the access to in-vehicle data and resources.
This fact-finding effort culminated in 2021 in a study on Policy Options, commissioned by DG GROW from TRL. This Study confirmed previous findings about the barriers to in-vehicle data and resources resulting in access for the whole eco-system being limited. TRL confirmed that this access problem is rooted in vehicle manufacturers’ closed telematics systems, which significantly impede third-party operators from competing in digital products and services.
New Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (‘VBER') and its Vertical Guidelines
As CECRA indicated in its first press release published on 10 May, the day of the publication by the European Commission of its new Vertical Block Exemption Regulation as well as its Vertical Guidelines and explanatory note, a first analysis of all the texts could be made.
It should be recalled that the drafting of these texts was finalised after a long consultation process in which CECRA and its members took part, and after a draft published on 9 July 2021. "The new rules will provide companies with up-to-date guidance that is fit for an even more digitalized decade ahead. The rules are important tools that will help all types of businesses, including small and medium enterprises, to assess their vertical agreements in their daily business," said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy.
In the framework of the consultation, the draft has been amended and integrates the remarks of the different stakeholders. CECRA is pleased to have been heard on several of its key demands.
Firstly, this new regulation now regulates the exchange of information in cases of "dual distribution" by the supplier, i.e. when the supplier sells directly to the final customer and is in competition with its network. The Commission noted that the development of direct sales posed problems regarding exchange of information between competing companies. Admittedly, the framework was much tighter in the draft published in July 2021 since the Commission had provided for a total exemption of the agreement only in the event of a combined market share on the local downstream market of less than 10%, which is exceeded in the case of most networks and is undoubtedly complicated to calculate. Nevertheless, Article 2 (5) of the Regulation limits the exchange of information between the supplier and the distributor to that which is directly related to the implementation of the vertical agreement and necessary to improve the production or distribution of the contract goods or services. In this respect, the Guidelines state that "In a selective distribution system, it may be necessary for the distributor to share information with the supplier relating to its compliance with the selection criteria and with any restrictions on sales to unauthorised distributors. Point 99 of the Guidelines specifies examples of information that may improve the production or distribution of the contract goods or services (technical information, logistical information, customer preferences, etc) and point 100 examples of information that is unlikely to fulfil these conditions: information relating to future prices and information relating to identified end users. This last point, even with exceptions, is important for distributors since some manufacturers have recently been tempted to oblige their network to provide customer data, which is now regulated by the Guidelines.
Secondly, if in 2010 the European Commission was keen to encourage the development of the Internet, in 2022 it now considers that this is no longer necessary. This concerns dual pricing and translates into the possibility for the supplier to have a different wholesale price depending on whether the product is sold in a shop or on the Internet. In other words, suppliers will be able to adjust the network margin according to the sales channel. However, the dual pricing exemption remains subject to the twofold condition that the wholesale price differentiation is justified in view of the level of investment required to sell online or offline respectively, and that the price difference does not jeopardise the profitability or viability of online sales (point 209 of the Guidelines). Wholesale prices that would either not allow for an adequate return on the investments made in physical sites or would jeopardise the profitability of online sales would therefore not be exempted.
Thirdly, the 'hybrid' sales platforms: Article 2 (6) of the new VBER excludes from the block exemption vertical agreements relating to the provision of online intermediation services ('OIS') where the OIS provider (the platform) also sells goods or services in competition with the firms to which it provides intermediation services (namely where it has a hybrid function). In the automotive sector, this provision is aimed at the supplier who hosts the sales of its network on its website. This supplier will therefore not benefit from the exemption of the new regulation. In concrete terms, a manufacturer will no longer be able to manage a website when it sells goods or services directly in competition with the companies to which it provides intermediation services if it wants to continue to benefit from the exemption.
This provision was already present in the draft. It is mainly aimed at the large Gafa platforms, notably Amazon, which are suspected of using the analysis of retailers' sales data to favour their own sales.
Although the New Vertical Guidelines state in Section 4.4. 4 that the Commission is unlikely to give priority to enforcement against vertical agreements concluded by hybrid platforms where the agreement does not contain restrictions by object and the platform does not have significant market power, CECRA welcomes the system retained because some manufacturers intended to organize their website in such a way as to offer not only new vehicles, but also used vehicles, financing and mobility services, and to organize the common website, they intended to rely in particular on the personal data of customers and strategic commercial information collected by their network.
CECRA has indicated since the beginning of the consultation process that while a central website common to a network can improve the visibility of a brand, it does not have to be controlled by the supplier and that the management of platforms common to a network by a trusted third party is perfectly possible.
Furthermore, the guidelines accompanying the Regulation provide a framework for agency status. Under competition law, this status does not need to be exempted since the agent is merely an auxiliary of the supplier for the sale of its products and is therefore no longer an independent undertaking.
However, in this case, all investments and risks relating to the marketing of the products must be borne by the supplier. The Commission details the costs that must be reimbursed to the agent: the Guidelines (points 23 to 45) make the recognition of the status of agent within the meaning of competition law conditional on the agent not having to bear all the costs specific to the contracts concluded and/or negotiated by the agent, the costs relating to the investments specific to the market as well as the risks relating to other activities carried out on the same product market when this independent activity is required by the supplier (or in the case of assumption of costs that it remains absolutely insignificant).
CECRA is particularly pleased to have been heard on the need to separate the assumption of costs from the remuneration of the agent : the draft allowed for the assumption of costs on a flat-rate basis or as a percentage of the turnover achieved, which opened the door to confusion between the reimbursement of costs which is the responsibility of the supplier and the commission which remunerates the intermediation service. It was essential that this be clearly separated, which is now the case as the Guidelines in point 35 state that while manufacturers may use different methods to reimburse an agent or commissionaire for their costs, "the method used by the principal should allow the agent to easily distinguish between the amount(s) intended to cover the relevant risks and costs and any other amount(s) paid to the agent, for example intended to remunerate the agent for providing the agency services".
A supplier/manufacturer may opt for a purchase/resale distribution system for part of the new vehicles in its ranges and for an agency or commission system for another part. In this case, however, all investments in new vehicles distributed on an agency or commission basis must be compensated by the supplier/manufacturer, even if they have been incurred by the distributor in the course of its purchase/resale activity, as long as they have not been amortised by the date of implementation of the agency or commission system.
These last two clarifications have been incorporated into the final version of the Guidelines following comments made by CECRA and its members.
In conclusion, manufacturers who opt for this type of contract will have to compare the advantages they can gain from controlling the retail price of their vehicles with the costs they have to bear. This of course applies to genuine agency contracts and not to non-genuine agency contracts which would be used by manufacturers and for which CECRA had warned of the dangers - in terms of competition law - in its previous press release. The Commission itself clearly recalls in point 45 of its guidelines that resale price maintenance ('RPM') is a hardcore restriction and a restriction by object, "the agency relationship should not be misused by suppliers to circumvent the application of Article 101 (1) of the Treaty.
Finally, regarding the automotive sector, the Commission has planned to publish its draft future specific regulation (to replace the current Regulation 461/2010) in June 2022 for an entry into force on 1 June 2023. CECRA hopes that this future specific regulation will continue to allow for a balance between authorised and independent repairer networks and will also address the following two issues:
the maintenance or not of the exemption of quantitative selective distribution systems (allowing manufacturers to control - numerus clausus - and the location of their distributor) at 40% market share, tolerated for the distribution of new vehicles, instead of the general exemption threshold of 30%,
the introduction of provisions guaranteeing the possibility of being an authorised repairer "on their own"; in particular for dealers whose contracts have been terminated for the sale of new vehicles. The rule according to which an operator, who continues to meet the purely qualitative criteria required to be a repairer, should be able to be re-authorised if his previous contract has been terminated without fault, has indeed been challenged by various national courts in the name of contractual freedom.
The European Commission has published today the new Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (‘VBER') and its Vertical Guidelines
The new rules are on the one hand narrowing the scope of the safe harbour regarding dual distribution, that is, where a supplier sells its goods or services through independent distributors but also directly to end customers, and parity obligations, that is, obligations which require a seller to offer the same or better conditions to its counter-party as those offered on third-party sales channels, such as other platforms, and/or on the seller's direct sales channels, like its website. In other words, certain aspects of dual distribution and certain types of parity obligations will no longer be exempted under the new VBER but must instead be assessed individually under Article 101 TFEU.
On the other hand, the rules are enlarging the scope regarding certain restrictions of a buyer's ability to actively approach individual customers, i.e. active sales, and certain practices relating to online sales, namely the ability to charge the same distributor different wholesale prices for products to be sold online and offline and the ability to impose different criteria for online and offline sales in selective distribution systems. These restrictions are now exempted under the new VBER, provided all other conditions for the exemption are met.
The Vertical Guidelines are providing detailed guidance on a number of topics, such as dual distribution, exchange of information, dual pricing and the very important topic of agency agreements which gave rise to two CECRA’s press releases (“Non genuine agency contracts are potentially an anti-competitive practice” & "Obligations to be respected when choosing an agent contract").
The Commission believes that these new rules, which come into force on 1 June 2022 and will be valid till 31 May 2034, are simpler and clearer.
CECRA, together with all its members, has started examining thoroughly these new rules and will comment them very soon.
Non genuine agency contracts are potentially an anti-competitive practice
Many automakers are turning towards agency sales models, this to combine the strengths of their widespread network of independent dealers with the benefits of more tightly managed sales processes and direct customer access.
In theory, manufacturers are free to decide upon which distribution model to unroll, however, they shall respect and comply to contractual obligations of that particular distribution model put in place. In other words, they are not allowed to combine different models and taking advantage out of each particular system.
CECRA notices a trend towards manufacturers opting for an agency model. This agent model consists of appointing a ‘sales agent’, who acts in the name of and on behalf of a manufacturer called the ‘principal’. The role of the agent consists essentially in taking orders from customers and forwarding them to the manufacturer who then delivers directly to the customers at the price fixed by the principal. All financial risks and investments are borne by the ‘principal’ (manufacturer). ,
This model also labelled as genuine agency contract. Called genuine because of them being outside of the scope of the competition legislation which is designed for regulating business conducts of independent parties. A ‘genuine’ agent is not independent from the manufacturer
Should the agent’s responsibilities go beyond an ‘insignificant'’ financial and investment risk (also known as ‘non-genuine’ agency contract), the position being exempted from competition legislation will be lost. Consequentially, under such a ‘non-genuine’ agency contract, the manufacturer is not allowed to fix the end-customer price. In this aspect the non-genuine agency is very similar to a distribution model, where the financial risks and investments were to a great extent supported by the dealers and the dealers were basically free to set the final end-customer prices.
CECRA warns manufacturers, they shall be fully aware of this and take into account all the aspects and obligations an agent contract implies. Although, as said, there are strict rules to comply with, we see some manufacturers becoming imaginative and a number of scenarios are emerging.
We are informed that some manufacturers try to play a ‘cherry-picking game’. Some manufacturers have ‘proposed’ to their actual dealers to switch to non-genuine agent contracts by which the ex-dealers would have to continue bearing significant investments and risks, and the final price would not be entirely fixed (e.g. letting the final price to the customer fluctuate by a few dozen euros, this being the possible waiver of commission from the agent to the final customer). This amount would obviously be derisory and would certainly not make it possible to consider that the manufacturer does not control the sales price to the final customer and can therefore dispense with assuming the commercial and financial costs and risks.
In the absence of an effective possibility for "agents" to give up a significant part of their commission, there is a risk that the competition authorities will consider that there is a de facto situation of imposed resale price, which is a black clause in the current Block Exemption Regulation and will remain so in the future draft regulation as well. The European Commission is well informed about these practices and is following it up closely.
CECRA therefore considers that from a legal point of view, this system of "false" agent contracts does not hold water and presents serious risks both for manufacturers who would like to follow this path and - even if to a lesser extent - for distributors who sign "false" agent contracts who could thus become (against their will since the distributors would have been forced to sign these contracts under penalty of termination of their relationship with the brand concerned!) stakeholders in an anti-competitive practice and thus potentially exposed to fines!
Economically, manufacturers should not 'offer' contracts to their partners if they know that the proposed business model is not viable. CECRA is not per se opposed to the use of genuine agent contracts which can have positive elements for both manufacturers and current dealers but: "Whatever distribution model manufacturers will unroll, one fundamental aspect is that whether it is a distributor or an agent, they need an economic viable business model, otherwise the future of distributing, repairing and maintaining cars will be disrupted".
CECRA welcomes the Data Act and confirms the need for specific regulation
The automotive sales and repair sector welcomes the publication of the Data Act, which is recognised as a well-proven landmark in the Digital Single Market journey.
More precisely, the high-level principles for end-users and service providers presented in the Data Act should be urgently and concretely deployed in the automotive sector. To this end, CECRA recalls the need to accelerate the required steps for putting in place sector specific provisions for accessing in-vehicle data, and being able to ensure fair competition among industry players and EU competitiveness and leadership.
Read more on the press release of the broad coalition representing a wide range of major automotive aftermarket stakeholders, as well as operators in the mobility services value chain, consumers, the insurance and the tyre industries.
The Frankfurt court has just ruled that the Opel dealer remuneration system in Germany is illegal. The Belgian Competition Authority received a complaint for similar facts
In November 2020, VDOH, the Association of German Opel Dealers which is member of the European Opel Dealer Council, member of CECRA, had filed a lawsuit on behalf of its members against Opel’s so-called "Commercial Policy", which regulates the remuneration system for its authorised dealers.
According to the association, the complaint is directed against the general structure of the remuneration system, its incalculability and, above all, against the numerous unilateral possibilities for change, including intervention in the margin.
Last week, the Frankfurt Regional Court upheld the action against Opel for its “Commercial Policy”. Opel may no longer impose a regulation on its sales partners in which the manufacturer can arbitrarily change the remuneration of its dealers consisting of a fixed margin and bonuses.
Opel Germany has already announced that it will appeal the ruling to the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main.
CECRA’s General Director Bernard Lycke said: “I very much welcome the decision of the Frankfurt Regional court as another breakthrough in dealers’ decade-long struggle for more fairness. Especially in light of all current radical changes and challenges, this Court’s decision could change the margin regulations of many makes and therefore paving the way for a balanced and fair partnership in the automotive industry”.
"Obligations to be respected when choosing an agent contract"
During more than 100 years, the automotive wholesale model has remained mostly unchanged. The automotive manufacturers build cars and sell them to their selected network partners ‘dealers’. Dealers, investing in sales and repair infrastructures complying to their manufacturer(s) corporate identity, take care of all the sales and service activities.
New vehicle architectures, technologies, changing customer behaviors and new mobility concepts are transforming the entire automotive ecosystem and this wholesale model is about to change. Many automakers are turning towards agency sales models, this to combine the strengths of their widespread network of independent dealers with the benefits of more tightly managed sales processes and direct customer access.
Peter Daeninck, Chairman of CECRA’s European Car Dealers' Division says that: “in theory, manufacturers are free to decide upon which distribution model to unroll, however, they shall respect and comply to contractual obligations of that particular distribution model put in place. In other words, they are not allowed to combine different models and taking advantage out of each particular system. We will not accept this kind of cherry-picking!”
Bernard Lycke, Director General, adds that: “we notice a trend towards manufacturers opting for an agency model. We are speaking about genuine agency contracts. Called genuine because of them being outside of the scope of the competition legislation. In a ‘non-genuine’ agency contract, vertical price fixing is not allowed.” This genuine agent model consists of appointing a ‘sales agent’, who acts in the name of and on behalf of a manufacturer called the ‘principal’. The role of the agent consists essentially in taking orders from customers and forwarding them to the manufacturer who then delivers directly to the customers at the price fixed by the principal. All financial risks and investments are borne by the ‘principal’, whereas prior, within the distribution model, the financial risks and investments were to a great extent supported by the dealers”. CECRA warns manufacturers, they shall be fully aware of this and take into account all the aspects and obligations an agent contract implies”. Although, as said, there are strict rules to comply with, we see some manufacturers becoming imaginative and a number of scenarios are emerging. We are informed that some manufacturers, having resigned their actual distribution contracts with their network and appointing agents, are requesting the latter to transform their business and to make the necessary investments. The European Commission is well informed about these practices and is following it up closely”.
Another aspect of changing distribution models is the issue of customer database, an important asset built up over the years by independent dealers. Within the agency model, manufacturers will be in direct contact with the end customer. The customer database is therefore a crucial aspect in order to be able to unroll this model successfully.
“Indeed” says Lycke, “In the course of changing dealer contracts into agent contracts, the issue of customer transfer must be addressed prior to signing the agent contract! However, we do not hear anything about it. As it is clearly specified within the European Commission’s guidelines, this shall be respected and compensated!”, he reacts.
CECRA’s President Jean-Charles Herrenschmidt concludes: “Whatever distribution model manufacturers will unroll, one fundamental aspect is that whether it is a distributor or an agent, they need an economic viable business model, otherwise the future of distributing, repairing and maintaining cars will be disrupted”.
During the first plenary session, dedicated to Green Deal, the Executive Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans set out the Commission’s goal and plans for making Europe the 1st climate continent by 2050. In his speech, he addressed the audience by saying that the automotive industry and its services have an important role to play in the transition to a climate neutral future. Transport is the only sector where greenhouse gas emissions have been on the rise. The bulk of that is caused by passenger cars. To bring these emissions down, he invites the whole industry to accelerate its efforts and to increase the market share of electric vehicles. He added, as it will have a serious impact on car dealerships and repair shops, a transition plan is therefore needed. As regard the social impact, he invites the industry to share thoughts and ideas on how best workers could switch jobs.
In the role out of the charging infrastructures, an acceleration is also needed. The Commission is therefore proposing ambitious and binding targets per member state to deploy the publicly available infrastructure.
There is a real need to prepare and adapt the entire mobility system. It includes the shift towards clean transport modes like cycling and zero emission transport, as well as to review the tax systems.
Timmermans concluded by saying that he counts on the automotive ecosystem representatives to help the Commission to get a transition that will be bold and that will leave no one behind.
The ensuing debate clearly showed the will of all to move towards CO2 reduction at full speed, but that in the short transition period, defined by the Commission, hybrid cars for long journeys with light batteries that consume less CO2 and electric vehicles for short urban journeys were still necessary to carry out the transition and to have time to train new skills. The rapid replacement of the most polluting cars with subsidies for low-income households, the development of hydrogen research, the use of alternative fuels and the acceleration of the development of fast-charging systems should be the priorities. The participants therefore decided to establish a more precise schedule and a fair distribution of tasks in the coming months.
The connectivity and digitalisation, dealt with in detail within the second plenary session, evoked some intensive discussions. It goes without saying that connected in-vehicle data is key. Several associations including CECRA, the automotive aftermarket operators, mobility services and consumers developed a system called S-OTP, a secure on-board telematics platform, which allows accessing data and functions emitted by the vehicle under the same conditions as manufacturers. However, the opinions between manufacturers’ association ACEA and aftermarket players were diverging, the session ended with a rather positive note. ACEA’s Director General Eric-Mark Huitema reached out to CECRA to continue the negotiations taking into account that in the end it is up to the customer to decide upon his data.
The focus of the 2nd day was put on the future automotive distribution models. Natalia Lazarova, the Head of Unit Antitrust at the Commission, set out the regulations applicable to the automotive distribution and repair sector. Both regulations are currently under review. She very much welcomed the event as through these exchanges, the Commission better understands the needs of the automotive players. The Commission is at present drafting the new rules. She invites CECRA’s members to send their comments to the last consultation round.
Klaus Zellmer, member of the Board of Management Sales, Marketing and After Sales of Volkswagen passenger cars, said VW has implemented an agency distribution model for specific products (e.g. electric vehicles) since one year. In order to assess tomorrow’s challenges, OEMs need to be more connected with their customers. The agency model would permit them to do so. The established network of dealers would be integrated into this new model as they have an essential role to play in the overall process of the customer’s buying process and experience. Being at the front desk, guiding and assisting customers in the technicalities and specificities of that good is fundamental.
Christian Bourgeon, lawyer specialized in distribution law, spoke about the legal details between a franchise and agent contract. These will further intensively be examined and discussed at CECRA dedicated working group. Nicolas Lenormant, a French truck dealer, and Jean-Charles Herrenschmidt, President of CECRA said as dealers start to make huge investments to ease energetic transition, it is highly important that new contracts would not create more precarity on their business. An exclusive distribution system or, at least a moratorium would be appreciated in this very challenging and sensitive period.
Bernard Lycke, General Director of CECRA, explained that it is up to OEMs to decide upon which distribution model to unroll. However, they shall indeed respect the contract conditions linked to that particular model put in place. As partners, manufacturers and dealers need to start off their bilateral discussions on the details of the future envisaged distribution models in order to make sure to come to a win-win situation and not to a one side approach which could lead to a demotivation of the networks and therefore result into an undesirable outcome.
This message was relayed by Rhett Ricard, Chairman 2020 of the American dealer association NADA and representatives of Chinese, Brazilian and Russian dealer associations which supported the European sales and repair firm standpoints and underlined the importance of dealers in their respective countries.
The assembly, through several witnesses including Thomas Martin, HR Director of the Frey Group in France, insisted on the fact that the transformation within the automotive industry will furthermore have a huge impact on jobs. Skilling, reskilling and upskilling is essential to make sure workers are not left behind. They shall be trained in conformity to the upcoming changes enabling them to perform high qualified repairs and maintenance of the future car park and by this means to ensure compliance to environmental standards and above all to guarantee road safety.
Francis Bartholomé, President of the French national association CNPA, underlined the same urgencies during the gala dinner speech. ‘Challenges are ahead, it is time to act and to put all actors around the table for the sustainability of all our companies and our workers”.
Jean-Charles Herrenschmidt, President of CECRA, said the conference has clearly sounded the alarm and the risk of not accelerating in the face of competitors who have taken the lead. It has allowed all stakeholders to start looking in the same direction in order to find efficient and cost-effective solutions in the coming months. They will be used to move forward quickly because it is time to move on and to work together to prepare the shift. Both Jean-Charles Herrenschmidt and Christophe Carignano said: "a 2nd edition of #CONNECTEurope will be organized next year to take stock of all the progress made".
CECRA and Infopro Digital have just closed their 2-day conference on Europe’s automotive mobility #CONNECTEurope with great success. The event hosted approx. 150 participants representing European and International leaders from the up & downstream automotive world as well as decision makers from the European institutions
Ahead of the European Commission’s Workshop on “Access to In-Vehicle Data” scheduled on the 17th of September next, a broad coalition, of which CECRA is part, representing automotive aftermarket operators, vehicle dealers, mobility services and consumers urges the European Commission to publish an ambitious legislative proposal on access to in-vehicle data by the first quarter of 2022 at the latest.
The ongoing lack of access to in-vehicle data and functions increasingly jeopardizes our ability to compete in digital products and services and to provide customers, both consumers and fleet owners/operators, with the digital services they expect. The recent TRL Study Report commissioned by the European Commission depicts these problems, which are rooted in vehicle manufacturers’ closed telematics systems. Another study, commissioned by the consumers organisation FIA Region I, showed that if this model would continue to establish itself, it could lead to consumers and independent service providers having to absorb additional costs of around €65 billion per year by 2030.
It is therefore time to act! After already lengthy investigations and several postponements since 2018, the draft legislation should be put in the legislative loop no later than the first quarter of 2022 to have a chance to go through the complete ordinary legislative procedure. Any delay could result in this major legislation protecting consumers and SMEs being delayed to the next terms of the European Commission and of the European Parliament, putting at risk the competitiveness and the survival of the 500.000 companies and 4,5 million jobs we represent.
A robust and ambitious sector-specific legislation is needed. What is at stake is too important to be handled with soft measures . A principles-based legislation underpinned by specific technical and legal requirements is needed to guarantee equal access to the vehicle, its data, functions and communication with the users. This legislation must address the systemic problems which have unequivocally been identified over the last years. It must be efficient and robust enough to remain relevant over several years. The specificities, the complexity and the importance of the automotive market require a sector-specific legislation and cannot be addressed in the broader horizontal initiatives in the framework of the European Data Strategy.
There is a simple solution: mandating a Secure On-Board Telematics Platform (S-OTP). The S-OTP is a set of requirements based on equipment which is already in the vehicle and on existing standards, involving no additional device. It puts the consumers/drivers in control, enabling them to freely choose which service providers have access to which technical data and for which purpose. Only services which are independently assessed, tested and approved could be chosen by the consumers. It is fully in line with the European Union’s objectives in terms of data privacy, cybersecurity, digitalisation, and enhancement of road mobility. We have published earlier this year a detailed technical description of what the S-OTP would be and how it would work, and today we release a set of videos to explain it in a shorter way. This video explains clearly how digitalisation is transforming road mobility, how the S-OTP is the perfect solution for the challenges arising from this trend, and what its benefits are for the consumers, the economy and society at large.
CECRA, together with the other members of the coalition, urge the European Commission to publish an ambitious and comprehensive legislative proposal on “Access to In-Vehicle Data” by the first quarter of 2022, to safeguard true consumer choice, innovation, and effective competition for digital automotive services.
A broad coalition, of which CECRA is part, urges the Commission to publish an ambitious legislative proposal on access to in-vehicle data by Q1/2022
European Commission’s zero-and low-emission vehicles ambitions into high gear
8 July 2021
In the European Commission’s communication on the ‘European Green Deal’ published end 2019, it was announced, the Commission would by June 2021, propose its revised legislation on CO2 emission performance standards for cars and vans.
Within the so-called ‘Fit for 55’ legislative package, the Commission is currently finalizing its proposal for a directive amending Directive 2003/87/EC and decision (EU) 2015/1814 to strengthen the EU Emissions Trading System and extend it in line with the Union’s increased climate ambition for 2030. Once this Directive is approved, Member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 31 December 2023 at the latest.
CECRA, the European Council for Motor Trades and Repairs, representing automotive sales and repairs businesses at European level are looking forward to take stock of the Commission’s proposal and to examine whether it is achievable within the set timeframe.
Jean-Charles Herrenschmidt, President of CECRA says: “it is necessary to move forward towards zero-and low-emission vehicles and thereby achieve the Commission’s goal of a carbon-neutral Europe. The automotive sales and repair businesses welcome all new technologies to reduce CO2 emissions, however, it is essential to move forward offering a certain transitional period which is crucial to prepare our businesses for the upcoming challenges and thereby ensuring high qualified maintenance and repair of the cars of tomorrow.”
It goes without saying that the entire automotive value chain, including dealers and repairers, is facing enormous challenges. An extended infrastructure of recharging and refuelling stations is crucial for the deployment of massive sales of zero- and low-emission vehicles. European customers will only be willing to shift towards these vehicles if the infrastructure is available. Automotive manufacturers are questioning the speed of its deployment. If tomorrow, customers remain reluctant who will buy these vehicles?
CECRA is therefore requesting the Commission to take into account a transition period which is needed to transform all stakeholders’ businesses as well as to set the deployment of recharging and refuelling stations into high gear.
Important communication from the Stellantis group about future dealer and authorised repairers contracts
20 May 2021
Yesterday, the Stellantis Group announced it will terminate all sales and service distribution contracts by 31 May next. The Group is reorganising its distribution and has given two years’ notice to all its sales and service partners. It plans to build a multi-brand distribution model which it will launch in June 2023.
Only in some cases dealers have been approached. There is no letter of intent. Representatives of dealer organisations will be approached and will be actively involved in the development of future sales plans and strategies. In recent years, the manufacturer has already started to merge the Peugeot and Citroën networks with that of Opel. The new distribution network will be selected on the basis of key objective drivers and criteria.
Stellantis, which operates brands including Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat and Jeep, is making the move ahead of the new Block Exemption regulations which are due to come in on 1st June 2022 for the general rules and 1st June 2023 for the motor rules.
CECRA, together with its Citroën, Opel and Peugeot European Dealer Councils members will follow carefully the evolution.
This radical decision only comes less than two months after the Austrian Supreme Cartel Court banned its Peugeot brand from tying dealers payments to customer satisfaction surveys and from subsidising vehicle prices sold at its manufacturer-owned sales outlets. The case arose following a long legal dispute between Austrian Peugeot dealer Büchl and PSA's Peugeot Austria, in which Büchl claimed Peugeot's national sales company was abusing its market power and in breach of competition law.
CECRA and all dealers across Europe took note of the decision of the Supreme Court which should be taken into account together with the new EU rules to pave the way to a balanced distribution model between manufacturers and their networks after June 2023.
Creating a level playing field for vehicle data access in the interest of consumers: Secure On-board Telematics Platform Approach
30 March 2021
A large coalition representing automotive dealers, aftermarket and consumers is calling on the European Union to take on board its proposal for a Secure On-board Telematics Platform (S-OTP) when legislating on access to in-vehicle data. In the detailed document, “Creating a level playing field for vehicle data access: Secure On-board Telematics Platform Approach”, publishers of technical information, body repairers, dealers and workshops, garage equipment suppliers, tyre manufacturers, road patrols, parts distributors and leasing and rental companies, as well as consumers, provide technical and commercial arguments sustaining their recommendation.
It is the only solution guaranteeing true consumer choice, effective competition and free entrepreneurship in a secure and technology-neutral manner.
With the advent of the connected car, competition now starts in the vehicle where the ability to safely and securely access in-vehicle data, functions and resources determines the quality of the service. The intention of the S-OTP is therefore to ensure that consumers can still choose and rely on service providers, many of them SMEs, to benefit from innovative, competitive and affordable services and products, improving road mobility, safety and sustainability. To do so, service providers have to be able to compete with all mobility stakeholders, some of whom might be tempted to act as “gatekeepers” through proprietary access methods to in-vehicle data.
As a solution addressing the challenges of true consumer choice, security and free entrepreneurship in the automotive services sector, the S-OTP is based on some key characteristics, such as:
Consumer is in full control regarding the access to in-vehicle data;
A clear separation of duties, with free management of access control for all service providers, including vehicle manufacturers;
Unmonitored and undistorted communication between in-vehicle services and their respective back ends;
Independent customer contract/direct consent management and service offering without the interposition of the vehicle manufacturer;
Standardised access to in-vehicle networks via safe and secure software interfaces enabling bi-directional communication with the vehicle;
The ability to safely interact with the driver through the vehicles human-machine interfaces.
Enabling effective competition in the automotive aftermarket, the S-OTP would benefit consumers and society at large, by:
Empowering consumers by ensuring their rights on privacy and widening their choice of service providers;
Boosting innovation and facilitating the digital transformation of mobility and the deployment of a digital ecosystem of services;
Contributing to the European Union’s path to become a frontrunner in connected and autonomous mobility and related services.
The S-OTP concept is in line with the European institutions’ ambitious goals to foster innovation and legislate in a way that works for the modern economy. The initial concept has been enriched to take into account the increased (cyber-)security requirements, by including certification of service providers and a robust approach to the development of secure applications, which consumers and operators can choose to install in their vehicles.
The coalition of associations has fed this concept into the study conducted by TRL on behalf of the European Commission, and invite the European legislators to take into account this detailed and complete solution (which enables consumers, vehicles and independent businesses to go smarter, safer, greener) when assessing legislative options.
Austrian Supreme Court rules that Peugeot Austria has abused market power against independent dealers
26 March 2021
Source: Competition Counseling & Research Peter Thyri
On March 22, 2021 the Austrian Supreme Cartel Court upheld the Cartel Court‘s earlier decision of May 12, 2020 in a legal dispute between Austrian Peugeot dealer Büchl and Peugeot Austria (PSA), that the general importer for Peugeot vehicles in Austria abused its market power vis-à-vis Büchl in violation of Austrian and European competition law. Büchl had turned to the cartel court because, like many other Peugeot dealers in Austria and Europe, it claimed to suffer from PSA‘s suffocating system of requirements and non-transparent reimbursement conditions.
The Supreme Court has banned Peugeot from tying the dealer‘s premium payments to customer satisfaction surveys; reducing the dealer‘s margin if they do not reach sales targets inflated by PSA and competing with dealers through subsidized vehicle prices on the end customer market at PSA’s own, vertically integrated sales outlets. Also, an elaborate control system for guarantee and warranty work and hourly rates that did not cover the dealers costs is prohibited, as those measures make guarantee and warranty work unprofitable for dealers. Finally, PSA may no longer pass on the costs of its mystery shopping and audit system for the new car and workshop business to dealers.
The Supreme Court recognizes that PSA economically forces dealers to take part in promotions and thereby restricting dealers’ freedom of setting their own prices. While the Cartel Court of first instance is requested to further complete its findings and decide anew as to this point, all the other points are now legally binding and must be implemented by PSA within three months time.
The Supreme Court stresses that its decision applies to all contractual relationships in which similar economic dependencies exist and awaits considerable changes in the remuneration system of PSA. The Supreme Court also clearly points to the parallel applicability of European competition law and elaborates on the finding of a dominant position on the part of the importer as well as on the treatment of abusive clauses in contractual relationships under Art 102 TFEU.
PSA's remuneration system must be adjusted within the deadline set by the Supreme Court. For other brands ‘networks – especially those of the newly formed Stellantis-Group directly affected by the decision – the judgement can serve as a valuable guideline to legal safety. It will also have to be discussed how numerous Peugeot dealers subject to the abusive conditions can be reimbursed for the loss in remuneration they suffered over the years as a consequence of PSA’s violation of the prohibition to abuse a dominant position.
CECRA and its Austrian member WKÖ welcome the decision of the Supreme Court as a breakthrough in their decade-long struggle for more fairness in the manufacturer-dealer relationship in Austrian and European car markets. Especially in light of all current radical changes and challenges, the judgment paves the way for a new partnership in the automotive industry.
Electric vehicles – the race for transformation
26 February 2021
In 2020, hybrid electric vehicles made up 11.9% of total passenger car sales across the EU (5.7% in 2019). Electrically-chargeable vehicles accounted for 10.5% of all new car registrations, compared to a 3.0% in 2019. While the European market was cut by approx. 24% of its passenger car sales due to the COVID pandemic, sales of hybrid and electric vehicles exceeded diesel sales in Europe for the first time with more than 900.000 vehicles sold. Germany, Italy and France have seen their sales of electric vehicle explode. According to Xerfi, a consulting firm, this is just the beginning. In France, for example, sales of electric and plug-in hybrids are expected to increase by 30% per year on average to represent 25% of the total market in 2025.
Car manufacturers race to transform their business to meet CO2 emission targets set by governments across the world. The UK government already announced to ban sales of new cars and vans powered by petrol and diesel from 2030. The Norwegian government, determined to take the lead, will interdict the sales by 2025. Car manufacturer Ford is planning all its cars sold in Europe to be electric by 2030. They would invest $1bn converting a vehicle assembly plant in Cologne, Germany, to become its first electric vehicle facility in Europe. The first all-electric cars would start rolling off the production line in 2023.
ACEA’s Director General, Eric-Mark Huitema says in yesterday’s press release that the CO2 targets can only be reached if a dedicated network of charging points right across the EU is deployed. The upcoming revision of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID) must be used by the European Commission to force member states to deploy one million public charging points across the EU by 2024, and to triple that number to three million by 2029. Likewise, some one thousand public hydrogen stations should be made available for cars and vans before 2030.
CECRA has always spoken out like the European Commission during the high level working groups (Cars 21, Cars 2020 and Gear 2030) in favour of technological neutrality. It is necessary to move forward towards zero CO2 emissions by 2050 but with the necessary transition that this represents and by being open to all technologies, whether electric or hydrogen engines.
CECRA also represents all repairers who have a major role to play in keeping millions of cars on European roads in good condition, as it contributes to better road safety as well as to the environment. For this reason, CECRA is part of several alliances with other European associations. It has recently jointed the ‘European Clean Hydrogen Alliance’.
CECRA welcomes two new members
3 February 2021
ARAN’s new President, Rodrigo Ferreira da Silva, said “our board agreed to apply for a membership within CECRA and as President I welcome this decision as it is very significant, with an ever more challenging future for our sector, only together we grow stronger”.
CEO, Head of Brussels Office of FinMobility, Pasi Moisio said “we are willing and committed to join and strengthen the cooperation between CECRA and FinMobility. FinMobility has several pillars of mobility advocacy (passenger and freight transport, logistics, taxi sector, automotive, infrastructure, driving schools). I am sure that CECRA will also benefit from this teamwork”.
ARAN’s mission is to promote, defend and support the interests of the activities within the automotive sector. It fosters the spirit of solidarity and mutual support among its members, as well as their development. ARAN develops skills and promote activities that boost the interests and the professional development of its members.
FinMobility is a leading voice in the EU for the Finnish employers’ and business organisations in the mobility sector. FinMobility represents 13.500 companies employing 100.000 people. FinMobility cooperates widely and transparently with the EU-institutions, Brussels-based representatives of transport and mobility sectors, business organisations and authorities of the EU member states. We also participate in the activities of our members’ umbrella organisations in the EU
EU passenger car market contracted by 23.7%
2020 worst year on record
19 January 2021
Today, ACEA published its registration figures for the full year 2020.
The EU passenger car market contracted by 23.7% to 9.9 million units as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 saw the biggest yearly drop in car demand since records began, with new-car registrations falling by 3 million units compared to 2019. All 27 EU markets recorded double-digit declines throughout 2020.
Among the region’s biggest car markets, Spain posted the sharpest drop (-32.3%), followed closely by Italy (-27.9%) and France (-25.5%), while full-year losses were significant but less pronounced in Germany (-19.1%).
This drop in sales has a huge impact on the entire automotive value chain and in particular on automotive dealers and repairers represented by CECRA.
CECRA’s European Car Dealers Chairman Peter Daeninck said “These figures are to be taken into account during manufacturers’ sales target negotiations with their authorised network”.
CECRA and ACEA jointly ask the European Commission to provide written assurances to Member States in the issue of end-of-series provisions for vehicles in stock
17 November 2020
Due to the interruptions in sales of automotive vehicles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, CECRA, ACEA and the automotive industry associations urge the European Commission to intervene regarding the postponement of the application dates of several EU pollutant emission and safety standards, as well as flexibilities on the so-called end of series (EoS) provisions for vehicles in stock that manufacturers and dealers were not able to sell before the entry into force of the Euro 6d-TEMP.
Through the European Commission’s guidance during the first lockdown last summer, many Members States introduced flexibilities at national level taking away a significant pressure on automotive importers and sales outlets to meet the end-of-series provisions set in the type-approval framework Regulation EU 2018/858.
CECRA and ACEA see a need for Member States put in place additional end-of-series flexibilities. These flexibilities are essential as the second lockdown-measures will even worsening the situation. Automotive dealerships in several EU countries have to close their sales departments again and are unable to sell their vehicles. As a result, dealers are cumulating a stock of unsold vehicles that meet the current emission standards but not the new Euro 6d ISC‐FCM standards that will enter into force on 1 January 2021.
12 November 2020
On the 10th of November, EC Commissioners Schmit and Breton officially launched the Pact for Skills (P4S). One of the four selected European skill partnerships is the automotive ecosystem. CECRA together with ACEA (European Automotive Manufacturer’s Association), CLEPA (European Association of Automotive Suppliers), ETRMA (European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers Association), IndustriALL and CEEMET (both social partners) are, amongst others, member of the Pact.
The P4S sets up large-scale partnerships in strategic industrial ecosystems as skills are central to recover from the coronavirus crisis as well as for mastering the digital and green transitions. Businesses, large and small, need skilled people to innovate and grow. Only by joining the forces it is possible to make substantial progress in meeting the challenges to overcome mismatches and shortages in skills. The Pact for Skills promotes joint action to maximise the impact of investing in improving existing skills (upskilling) and training in new skills (reskilling). It calls on industry, employers, social partners, chambers of commerce, public authorities, education and training providers and employment agencies to work together and make a clear commitment to invest in training. The ambition in the field of automotive is to upskill 5% of the workforce each year, which would result in around 700,000 people being upskilled throughout the entire ecosystem.
For more information:
You can hear the recording here
Summary of The Pact for Skills –Skills Partnership for the Automotive Ecosystem
In view of the European Commission’s initiative “Pact for skills”, to be launched on November 10th, CECRA in co-operation with ACEA, CLEPA, ETRMA and many other partners have elaborated a joint proposal for a recovery strategy to deliver and implement a sectorial up & reskilling framework for the automotive value chain
15 October 2020
The automotive ecosystem is facing an unprecedented disruption due to the impact of the covid pandemic as well as the EU goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. It is of crucial importance that this transformation is done in a socially responsible way.
CECRA was associated in the recent roundtable discussion with European Commissioners Nicolas Schmit (Jobs and Social Rights) and Thierry Breton (Internal Market) on 23 September.
Today, CECRA, together with a broad coalition is now jointly calling on the Commission to set up the Pact as a public-private partnership to help the automotive ecosystem cope with the major structural changes ahead.
4 September 2020
Market registrations show in important decrease
17 June 2020
Joint position paper on COVID-19 (focused on the aftermarket) signed by CECRA together with 6 other EU associations. The position paper can be found here.
17 June 2020
CECRA, ACEA and CLEPA sent a letter to the heads of state and government of the 27 EU member states, calling for urgent support for the automotive sector in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. The letter can be found here.
8 June 2020
IIn Austria, the Vienna Cartel Court handed down a very interesting decision on May 12, 2020, at first instance, in a dispute between the Peugeot Büchl dealer and the general importer of Peugeot vehicles in Austria.
26 May 2020
IndustriAll Europe, Ceemet, ACEA, CLEPA, CECRA and ETRMA, the European business organisations and the trade unions for the sector call on the European Commission for a industrial recovery plan.
5 May 2020
Europe's four auto sector associations publish 25-point action plan for successful restart
26 March 2020
European vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, tyre manufacturers, dealers and repairers wrote a joint letter to the European Commission on the COVID-19 crisis
12 March 2020
Odometer manipulation is widespread across the EU and has tremendous consequences for the consumer. CECRA is strongly committed in fighting against such harmful practice.
11 March 2020
It is time for all the stakeholder to build together the intelligent mobility of tomorrow in terms of data access, security and energy. This is essential for Europe and the future of the sector.
04 March 2020
CECRA has been contacted by the contractor chosen by the European Commission as the sole representative of European dealers and repairers to help in the renewal process of the Automotive Block Exemption 461/2010.
24 January 2020
After the Brussels Motor Show, CECRA underlines that the Green Deal will only work if policy makers and the entire automotive sector work hand in hand
27 November 2019
On 26/11/19, a meeting between CECRA's ECD Division and a DG COMP delegation took place in Brussels. The aim of the meeting was to explain the renewal process of the General Block Exemption Regulation 330/2010 and Automotive Block Exemption 461/2010 that respectively expire in May 2022 and May 2023. Both DG COMP and CECRA are working in close collaboration in order to ensure that the automotive sector is taken into account in the new legislative framework regarding competition and the consumer welfare.
22 November 2019
On 19/11/19, a meeting of CECRAs IR division took place in London. Many points concerning the future of Independent Repairers where discussed.
Today, a large number of associations of the automotive sector and mobility services operators, insurers, consumers and SME representatives, with among them CECRA, reaffirmed their call for a legislative solution, ensuring effective remote access to in-vehicle data and functional resources which will guarantee competition, innovation, and free consumer choice.
CECRA organized its Annual Dinner Event at The Hotel in Brussels with great success. Almost all of the federation’s national associations and European dealer councils attended, as the event provides the opportunity to bring together its members once per year and exchange views on the current state of affairs in the sector, as well as to discuss and express their ideas as regards the present and future challenges for cars, vans and trucks dealers and repairers.
1 April 2019
Today, a large number of associations, representing the car dealers’ interest throughout the world (CECRA – EU; NADA – US; CADA – China; CADA – Canada; FADA – India; FENEBRAVE – Brazil; ROAD – Russia) gathered in Geneva - on the occasion of the kick-off ceremony of the 89th International Motor Show - to discuss the various issues arising from access to data, both from dealers and from the vehicles they sell, the unprecedented opportunities stemming from connected-car technology, and the role that car dealers will play in the future.
14 December 2018
After the success of the first edition last year, the adventure of the European Startup Prize for mobility will continue in 2019, co-founded by BCG and Via ID, with the participation of several other stakeholders among which CECRA, Groupe ADP, RATP, GRDF, Europcar Mobility Group, Grimaldi Studio, and with the support of Karima Delli, President of the Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament.
Today, 22 November 2018, the TRAN Committee (Transport and Tourism) of the European Parliament has adopted a draft own-initiative report on Autonomous driving in European transport which calls on the European Commission to introduce a robust legislative framework ensuring the removal of any obstacle to the use of in-vehicle data before January 2020.
21 November 2019
The European Council for Motor Trades and Repairs (CECRA) organized - together with AFCAR, an alliance of several European associations representing automotive industry and mobility services operators as well as motorist consumers - a policy event in presence of representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament, to discuss access to vehicles, their data and driver interaction functions.
A coalition of 7 organisations welcome today’s vote in the European Parliament calling on the European Commission to take decisive action against odometer fraud throughout the European Union. This is a significant step towards restoring consumer trust in the used car market. Read more.