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Parts shake-up imminent

Proposals which will shake up Europe’s £7bn vehicle components industry are due to finally receive the green light by the European Commission this coming Tuesday (September 14) after five separate postponements this year.

The development will enable independent manufacturers to compete in the market for ‘visible replacement’ parts, such as windscreens, lights, bumpers and doors. However, car manufacturers have strongly opposed the move, warning that it could endanger safety standards and affect employment and intellectual property rights as well as profits.

ACEA, which represents Europe’s carmakers, insists that the abolition of manufacturers’ design rights would cost 50,000 jobs to the benefit of parts copiers in the Far East, and would result in a loss of 2.5bn Euros a year for car manufacturers.

EU internal market commissioner Frits Bolkestein is determined to push the plan through in order to increase competition in the marketplace and drive down the costs of car repairs for the consumer. His spokesman in Brussels maintains the proposals will finally receive the Commission’s approval on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, they will still require ratification by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament over the next year before becoming law.

Brian Spratt, chief executive of the Automotive Distribution Federation, welcomes the move. “Vehicle manufacturers argue it’s dangerous for their future investment and employment, but they’re just trying to stitch up the market with a monopoly supply situation,” he says.

ADF members recently took part in a Europe-wide lobbying campaign by emailing the Commission in support of the abolition of parts design protection.

Spratt believes the UK industry is already in the position the EC requires the rest of the union to adopt, but adds the logistics of obtaining copy parts can be extremely complicated. At present, says Spratt, replacement items made in Spain for the UK market can be impounded by French customs officers as counterfeit goods.

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