Belgian car industry flourishes again
After severe blows with the closing of no less than 3 car factory’s the past decades, the Belgian car industry seems to have recovered. Today 61.000 people are occupied by the industry, directly or indirectly.
Technology federation Agoria checked the health of the Belgian car industry, and they saw a total turnover of 22.3 billion euro in 2017, with an added value of more than 4 billion. “Almost 90% of production was destined for export,” adds Ben Van Roose from Agoria.
In 2017, a transition year for the two Belgian car assembly plants (Audi in Brussels, Volvo in Ghent), they still managed to produce 335.000 cars, approximately 240.000 in Ghent and 95.000 in Brussels.
That’s a nice figure, taken into account that both factories are preparing a big model change. “We had to stop our XC60-model in September of last year and are starting up the new XC40 from November on, but production has still to come on cruising speed”, says Eric Van Landeghem, factory manager in Ghent.
“The capacity for this new model is around 100.000 cars per year at the moment, but we already received the order to increase production capacity as demand is high”, adds Van Landeghem.
At Audi still 95.000 specimen of the outgoing A1 were produced, but in the same time the factory is being completely refurbished to produce the all new e-tron electric Audi from this year on, followed by an e-tron sportback in 2019.
Belgium also has important assembling capacity in the truck business. There is Volvo Trucks in Ghent, where no less than 45.000 trucks are assembled per year (this year a total production of 1 million will be registered since the start of the factory).
At Daf Trucks (Oevelen) they produced 50.000 truck cabins and 120.000 axles, with a workforce increase of 12%. Also coach builder Van Hool (Koningshooikt) is doing well. “The whole assembling industry is employing 17.000 people”, says Van Roose proudly.
Technology sexy again?
But there is more than just assembling cars or trucks in big factories. Smaller companies all over the country deliver soft- and hardware for prestigious players.
From transmissions for Ferrari and Mercedes AMG, audio systems and applications for Jaguar and Porsche, to all kinds of chips (Melexis), navigation tools and even systems for autonomous or connected driving.
All these companies together employ (directly or indirectly) 61.000 people. “The biggest challenge is to find the right people at the right place to do the job”, concludes Agoria. They call on the Belgian youth and their parents: “Technology is sexy again, it’s interesting and rewarding to do and offers good career opportunities.”