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President of Sernauto María Helena Antolín: “The Spanish component sector needs the United States”

Automotive News

The Spanish Association of Manufacturers of Equipment and Components for Automotive, Sernauto, is the employer of an industry without which the automotive sector could not be conceived in Spain. The production of components generated in 2016 34,000 million euros, the best historical data. Its president for almost a year is María Helena Antolín (Toulon, France, 1966), vice president of Grupo Antolin, one of the great Spanish companies of components that, moreover, they are leading internationally.

Question. Is the sector at its best in its history?
Answer. Our industry is experiencing a very good moment, thanks to the effort we have made all these years to offer our customers the best products, solutions and services, thanks to our strong commitment to talent, R & D and internationalization. We have very strong companies that have invested a lot to be competitive and, in many cases, have become world leaders of a particular product or system. And the most important thing is that we are already immersed in the development of the components of the cars of the future.

Q. Will the sector continue to grow this year?
A. The first estimates indicate that in 2017 this data will continue to rise, increasing turnover by 5% and employment by 3%.

Q. How do these growth rates translate into job creation in Spain?
A. In 2015, the sector generated around 8,000 new jobs, reaching almost 205,000 direct jobs. It represents more than 10% of industrial employment in five autonomous communities. If direct and indirect jobs are taken into account, the figure amounts to 330,000 people. What I think is more relevant is that it is a quality job, stable, since 85% of the contracts are indefinite, and is spread throughout the Spanish geography.

Q. Is there a skilled and sufficient workforce in Spain to cover future job demands?
A. The sector is facing strong competition with other sectors in the search for highly qualified personnel. For this reason, we have to reinforce the attractiveness of the sector to incorporate talent. For all the changes we are experiencing today and what we will see in the future, the automotive industry is probably one of the most exciting sectors to develop a professional career.

Q. What is the role of Vocational Training in attracting talent?
A. Dual Vocational Training is very useful as it effectively combines theoretical and practical training in the workplace. Many companies in the sector are already working on it with projects both nationally and internationally. Training and lifelong learning are one of the most important instruments for improving the competitiveness of the automotive sector. The continuous transformation of the sector, in order to adapt to the technological and social changes related to the present and future mobility, makes the requirements in the necessary qualifications very quickly evolve. The companies in our sector are totally committed to continue investing in the qualification and training of their employees throughout the value chain.

Q. The future of the automotive goes through the autonomous car, connected, electrical … What challenges presents, at a technical level, this new panorama for the Spanish manufacturers?
A. The automotive equipment and components industry is one of the sectors that invests most in R & D & I in our country: in 2015 they were 1.2 billion euros. At the moment we work in four main lines of work: the development and application of new materials to reduce consumption and weight; Electrification; The development of cooperative communication systems with other vehicles and infrastructure in connected vehicles, and the introduction of advanced driving assistance functions in the vehicle. In all these issues, the component companies in Spain are leading the way.

Q. How can the big companies in the sector affect protectionist measures in a market like the US?
R. USA is one of the most important markets for the Spanish industry of equipment and components. Both there and in Mexico there are more than 40 production plants and R & D & I centers of Spanish companies. Considered the European Union as a bloc, the USA is the second destination of exports of the country’s companies. For us, it is fundamental to be able to continue counting on mechanisms that favor the commercial relations between both countries.

Q. What other markets are interesting to the industry?
A. In addition to the US and Mexico, which are very important, our companies are also strengthening their position in China, India, Japan, Iran, South Africa, Argentina or Southeast Asian markets such as Singapore and Thailand. Africa also presents itself as a market to explore even more.

Q. In 2015 Sernauto presented its 2020 strategic agenda, which set out a series of measures to guarantee the future of the sector. Are they achieving the goals?
A. We are doing them little by little. With the 2015 data, we have covered 60% of the goal of increasing income, we have created almost half of the direct jobs raised, in exports we are at 79% of the target and in R & D we have reached 70% . The most urgent is the implementation of an industrial support plan for the automotive sector, to coordinate all aid for the sector as a whole: competitiveness and industrialization, energy, labor, training and qualification, digitization … This would allow us Be stronger and therefore more competitive.

Javier García Ropero – Madrid -15-03-2017 – CINCO DIAS

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