The director general of Sernauto considers that the investment in innovation “is the key of the success of these companies”Automotive News
José Portilla: “We will open markets like Korea or Iran for the sector”
It values the need for companies to “gain size”
Sernauto, the association that accounts for 85% of the turnover of components suppliers for the automotive industry, turns 50 this week with the clear intention of “maintaining the renewal strategies and greater professionalism, adding new services for the Associates and capture new ones, to have a critical mass before the association. ” This is what José Portilla, the newly appointed CEO of the employers, tells us in his first interview with a media since he took office.
Four years ago, they designed in the Agenda 2020 the growth objectives for the sector, with some lines of action for their realization. How do you evaluate your compliance at this time?
At the moment, Agenda 2020 has a high degree of compliance, of around 70% in terms of turnover, exports, added value … Last year, the sector as a whole closed with a 6% revenue growth %, To 34,000 million euros. Employment generation rose 4% in the year, with 7,000 new jobs. Exports account for 60% of the value of the turnover, about 19,500 million euros, with the objective fulfilled. It is a purely exporting sector, with very intenational companies. In addition, it is tremendously competitive and thanks to the fact that it has continued to invest in innovation, it continues to grow, not at the same pace as the last three or four years, where in some cases it was growing at double-digit rates but growing.
What are your medium-term objectives as an association?
What has defined the success of this sector is the investment in R & D & I. In 2015, 3.8% of the turnover of the research sector was invested, some 1,200 million euros and in 2016, has reached 4%, to 1,385 million. In three years, the budget dedicated to these activities between our companies has grown 76.5%. It is three times the average investment of Spanish industry. We have to continue betting on these developments. In addition, the component sector in Spain is excellent in processes. It is excellent in products but is even better in processes. The tax treatment of product innovation is more beneficial than the projects, 25% tax deduction in product and 12% in processes. We demand that the administration be equated.
As an association, we want to continue to capture critical mass to have more muscle in front of the Administration.
What are the forecasts for 2017?
According to the first estimates, the sector will continue in its line of growth in figures very similar to those of this year: 7% in turnover and 3% in employment generation.
Are you affected by a possible slowdown in car production in Spain this year?
A priori, no, because our companies are very internationalized. Under the umbrella of Sernauto are not only the large Spanish groups but also the multinational companies based in Spain and they are not seeing a slowdown. Labor peace also contributes to investment in Spain. We hope it stays.
How does Sernauto work in the internationalization of the sector?
We do a lot of work with SMEs, through international fairs and trade missions. We manage the Icex plan for the sector. We are preparing visits to Mexico, Shanghai and Las Vegas. Small and medium-sized enterprises represent more than 30% of the total industry, in some cases world leaders in its product. Of this turnover, 15% corresponds to manufacturing companies original spare part, a very valued sector.
Does this industry need more concentration to generate larger companies or are mergers difficult?
As a business association, we do believe that it is good for companies to gain in size because of the improvements they would have in terms of competitiveness, synergies, cost savings, etc. More size also allows them to compete better abroad. But there are certain criteria that do not facilitate it. On the one hand, the specialization of their manufacturing and that are small companies, family with different cultures, the fusion is complicated. However, several of these companies are going through generational changes and these new managers are more trained in management. You will have to see how your direction affects these processes.
What are the main export markets for these companies?
Its first natural market in terms of volume is the European Union, taken as a bloc. Then Morocco, USA, China, Turkey, Mexico and Japan.
How can international uncertainties such as the brexit or protectionist policies of US President Donald Trump affect them?
Al brexit has a lot of travel. In a year or two, we will not see the consequences. We advocate a stable regulatory framework without distortions to competition, that there is free movement without tariffs or obstacles such as raising the tax burden on Spanish companies in the United Kingdom.
And similar happens in Mexico. There is no excessive concern. It is a market with a lot of travel. We must wait to see what happens and when it happens, react and go to the EU to protect our rights and impose anti-dumping measures if they are necessary.
What new emerging markets are the most interesting for this sector?
Korea, for example. We are in talks with working with Kotra, Korea’s commercial office in Spain, to assess the possibilities of setting up Spanish companies in that country. Iran is giving signs of international openness and we are working with local departments to help with the implementation. We are attentive to Argentina, which is implementing policies to increase its weight within the automotive sector in Mercosur and also to markets in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore and Thailand.
Will the sector affect the Gestamp Stock Exit? Will it be a trend to follow?
It is a trend that may be natural in some companies, with a certain size, to get funding otherwise. But we can not express ourselves regarding the strategic decisions of each company. What is certain is that companies have to grow in size. We have weathered the crisis very well but it is necessary to avoid that a new trip of these characteristics is carried ahead to the small companies.
5Dias – 15 JUN – 2017 (Translation Soft)