“The Polish reality is that meeting the ambitious goals of the Green Deal will be quite demanding” – A talk with Tomasz Bęben, Managing Director at SDCM
To have a deeper understanding of the realities and impact of the mobility transition on the auto supply industry in Poland, we met Tomasz Bęben, from SCDM—the Polish association for parts distributors and producers— who told us about the most pressing points currently for components manufacturers and what the future could look like in the region.
- How are the current geopolitical events affecting the industry?
Industry research shows that the changes taking place in the market, and related price increases i of raw materials, energy and labour, inflation, supply chains disruptions, as well as shortages of some of the intermediate goods, affect the financial situation of companies. When the war in Ukraine started, companies were already dealing with COVID-19 and chips shortages, and now we face additional unprecedented challenges
Being in the midst of a transition, it is important to mention that the Polish industry has needed to focus on counter measures to the negative effects of the crisis and is currently making considerable efforts to secure as much as possible the continuity of supply chains and provide alternative sources of raw materials and intermediate goods in order to maintain operational capacity.
- What about energy and fuels? How does the future of the Polish auto supply industry look like in that regard?
Poland is in a relatively good situation when it comes to Russian energy dependency. Coal, being the basis of the energy sector in Poland is 80% obtained from domestic resources. The government makes attempts at becoming totally independent in terms of the demand of gas from Russia – some activities to replace Russian gas with resources from Scandinavian countries were already planned for the near future, even before the war in Ukraine. Polish refineries are also technically adapted to the processing of raw materials coming from places other than Russia. This is carried out in parallel with activities promoting renewable energy sources.
The conflict in Ukraine has been a major lesson, but there are other factors too. Nowadays, we are aware of how much we need to diversify and base the functioning of the economy on various sources and solutions. Diversification of energy sources and technology openness should be one of the key elements of the policy framework pursued at the EU and national levels. Of course, this should be done with the aim of climate neutrality, implemented gradually to allow for the adaptation and introduction of the changes in the operational strategies of entrepreneurs. Such approach will also protect or reduce the impact on jobs.
- You mention the impact on jobs. How is the future looking for companies in Poland? Are there any concerns related to the consequences of the recent CO2 vote in the plenary at the national level?
The transformation aimed at achieving greener solutions in the field of transport needs to take into account consumers and employees, because they are the basis of the ‘be or not to be’ of the mobility world. Only with the free and affordable movement of people and goods, will consumers be able to use the solutions and services offered in the automotive market.
As we know, meeting the ambitious goals set by the provisions of the Green Deal will be quite demanding on the Polish reality. All this is due to, among others, the fact that the entire automotive industry, as well as the major share of the transport industry, is based on internal combustion engine technology and solutions around this technology have been developed for years. Therefore, a big challenge, in addition to achieving the goals of reducing CO2 emissions, in our case will also be to support and help transform businesses in the automotive industry so that they have a chance to survive the green transformation. This will entail allowing all efficient and effective solutions to co-exist and complement one another.
- What about the infrastructure? Is Poland ready for an EV-only scenario?
There is an ongoing effort to boost infrastructure in the field of alterative powertrains, to align with the ambitious goals of the Green Deal. Certainly, we fear that the insufficient infrastructure will limit the mobility of Poles, preventing them from using modern solutions in the field of alternative drive technology. This problem should be considered in many ways, as it is not the infrastructure itself that is the problem. One should also look at the wide availability of low- and zero-emission vehicles, think about the incentives for the drivers to attract them to ZLEVs, as well as work on general public awareness of the potential benefits of a manageable transition. Infrastructure is and will continue to be a big challenge moving forward. This is all the more reason for deploying complementary solutions and not betting on just one technology.
- What would then be your call to action to policy makers?
Ahead of the Council of the European Union and trialogue negotiations I would ask that we take into consideration the social dimension of the transformation, which will be enormous. We should not leave any market participants behind. We should give time and support to businesses so that they have a chance to survive.
According to the PwC Strategy& study commissioned by CLEPA, more than 50K jobs, in Poland depend in the internal combustion engine. And there are other areas, like repair shops and fueling stations that also depend on this technology. Development of electromobility and job gains there won’t compensate for this loss completely. The emphasis should be to keep technology openness and provide the needed space to keep developing all the solutions that help us reach climate-neutral goals. As part of the trialogue negotiations, we need to remember that technology is not our enemy, but CO2 emissions and pollutants.
About Tomasz Bęben
Tomasz is Managing Director at SDCM and Member of the Board of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA). A graduate of the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Jagiellonian University. Attorney at law at the Bar Association of Attorneys-at-Law in Warsaw. He gained experience in law firms in Krakow and Warsaw. Strongly associated with the automotive industry for several years.
About the Polish automotive supply industry
- The automotive sector is one of the largest branches of the Polish economy, responsible for around 8% of GDP.
- Spare parts and accessories production is the driving force of this industry. Its annual sold production exceeds 50% of the total sold production of the whole automotive industry. This makes Poland an important automotive manufacturing centre in Europe and across the world.
- Spare parts producers are key employers in Poland, providing jobs for over 140,000 people. This accounts for almost 80% of jobs in the entire automotive industry. Within the sector, the production of parts and components is also one of the most innovative dimensions. R&D activity is financed to a large extent from companies’ own resources. In Poland, spare parts producers invest 8-10% of their own revenues in research projects and the development of new technologies for safe, smart and sustainable mobility.
- The automotive industry in Poland is very diverse in terms of size. In our country, both international spare parts producers as well as domestic businesses have manufacturing footprints. However, SMEs in Poland represent a significant part of the companies operating in this sector.
In: CLEPA News, Electrification, Emissions, Environment & Energy, Growth & Competitiveness