From gloom to boom (almost)

This year’s IAA was the best ever, writes CHARLEEN CLARKE. That’s because the Europeans appear to have shaken off their doom and gloom attitude. It’s not quite time to be cracking open the bubbly just yet, but the mood at this year’s IAA show was quite upbeat…

The 63rd IAA Commercial Vehicles, which took place recently in Hannover, Germany, was a complete blast. (You can read all about it in this issue of FOCUS; you’ll find a bumper IAA feature that kicks off on page 10). I say this because people were smiling; companies were reporting good sales… there was an air of positivity at the show.

Matthias Wissmann, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), gave a hint of things to come at the opening ceremony, when he enthused: “This IAA sends out a clear signal for a fresh start! The IAA is not only the most important international trade fair for transport, logistics and mobility. It is also the first trade fair after the crisis at which companies in this key industry are presenting their innovations. The total of 272 world premieres is a new record – which makes the IAA a festival of innovations.” There were 1 751 exhibitors from 43 countries at this year’s show.

Wissmann added that this IAA was taking place at the right time. “Following the crisis year of 2009, the international commercial vehicle markets are now expanding again. The storm has given us a thorough battering. But despite all the turbulence it has not put us out of action.”

He reported that, since the beginning of the year the domestic market had also been recovering. “Although the pre-crisis level is still somewhat distant, we can say that we now have the worst point behind us,” Wissmann said. “The crisis first bottomed out in the van segment; for some months now the heavy vehicle segment has also been back on course for growth.”

In Brazil, China and India the commercial vehicle markets (over 6 ton) are “already in the passing lane”, he noted. In Brazil new registrations have risen by more than 50% this year. In China, which accounts for almost half the world’s sales of heavy trucks, demand in the period up to the end of August rose by over 60%. In India the year-to-date sales of heavy trucks have nearly doubled.

Wissmann emphasised that the commercial vehicle industry was also a very important factor for the labour market. “The German freight transport logistics sector alone employs 2,6 million people and generates 7% of the German gross domestic product. The 180 000 employees in the German commercial vehicle industry and its supply firms, with their products and their ideas, are the foundation of successful logistics – regionally, nationally, across Europe and in global trade,” Wissmann continued.

Naturally, the environment was once again a key focus at the IAA this year. “The efficiency of modern commercial vehicles is demonstrated especially clearly by the reductions in emissions,” Wissmann stressed. “Innovative technological solutions have resulted in overall emissions from commercial vehicles, in the last 20 years alone, being reduced by an average of 85%. And the potential CO2 savings in the transport sector are nowhere near exhausted.”

While he saluted the industry as a whole for its environmental achievements, Wissmann said that the pioneers in alternative power are buses, which he described as the “eco-champions” of the industry. “Today scheduled service buses with hybrid or fuel cell technology are already on the roads,” he added. We are seeing this trend on the roads in South Africa too – read all about the ethanol-powered Scania buses in this issue of FOCUS (see page 100)

In keeping with our EduTrans initiative, Wissmann said that the IAA was committed to encouraging young people to enter the commercial vehicle industry. For instance, it organised a Recruiting Day during which manufacturers and suppliers in the VDA offered youngsters the opportunity to obtain career information and make contacts. Germany, and Europe for that matter, faces the same skills crisis we’re up against here in South Africa. “We urgently need upcoming engineers so that we can maintain our lead in research and development,” Wissmann emphasised.

Enjoy this issue of FOCUS – and especially our IAA feature!

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