ACEA gets new Director-General and criticizes EU’s AFIR regulations

As of 1 September 2022, Sigrid de Vries will assume the position as the European car and truck manufacturers association’s new Director-General, following a decision by the ACEA Board of Directors. She will manage the association that unites Europe’s 16 major car, truck, van, and bus makers at the EU level.

Concerning the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure regulation (AFIR), ACEA calls on member states, the European Parliament, and the Commission to insert more ambition into AFIR to align with the EU’s climate targets.

Leaving after three years

Eric-Mark Huitema, Director General of ACEA since 2019, will leave ACEA as of 31 August 2022 on his own accord. “My time as ACEA Director-General was a rewarding and positive period of transformation for the European automobile industry and our association,” he stated.

“I would like to thank my team and all ACEA’s members for the close and trusted cooperation. It was an honor for me to be part of the industry’s transformation, lead ACEA’s transition, and represent ACEA members in this leadership role. However, after three rewarding years, I have decided to pursue new objectives.”

Oliver Zipse, President of ACEA, stated: “We respect the decision of Eric-Mark Huitema and wish him continued success in the future. During his tenure, he played a strong role in representing the European automobile industry as a progressive player that embraces the objectives of the EU’s Green Deal.”

Coming from the supplier business

And Zipse adds: “The appointment of Sigrid de Vries will strengthen the automobile industry’s proactive role as a player committed to climate-neutral mobility and a digital and resilient economy. She is an experienced leader with a strong track record in industry and association positions and a respected counterpart to our European stakeholders. The members of ACEA and I look forward to working with her closely in the future.”

Sigrid de Vries has been Secretary-General of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) since 2017, where she will end her assignment in August. As a Dutch national, her career path has consisted of numerous leadership positions in external affairs within the automotive and related sectors.

“She has a background in focusing on positive change and articulating industry views in a context of deep and fast-paced transformation,” an ACEA release declares. Between 2006 and 2012, she was already Director of Communications and Public Relations at ACEA. De Vries started her career as a reporter and correspondent.

AFIR

“A rapid ramp-up of charging and refueling infrastructure is vital to decarbonize road transport,” stated Eric-Mark Huitema, ACEA’s current Director-General. “We need a swift adoption of this important regulation to send the right signal to the markets.”

The European Commission put forward its proposal for the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure regulation( AFIR) as part of its ‘Fit for 55’ climate package last year. This proposal sets mandatory targets for charging points and hydrogen refueling stations in all 27 EU member states.

As part of its ‘general approach’, the Council maintained the Commission’s infrastructure targets for light and heavy-duty vehicles. Unfortunately, however, these ambition levels are far from sufficient to support the massive market uptake of zero-emission vehicles.

Huitema comments: “The Council’s position on AFIR does not guarantee the minimum levels of infrastructure needed for vehicle manufacturers to meet their CO2 targets. However, policymakers must also be aware that setting phase-in targets for trucks will effectively determine the CO2 reductions possible in this segment.”

ACEA also regrets that the Council introduced several flexibilities. These derogations are based on parameters such as road transit volumes and ‘socio-economic cost-benefit’ analyses. “There already is a very uneven spread of infrastructure across the EU, with some 70% of all charging points centralized in four EU countries,” the ACEA statement argues.

“Allowing member states to apply different rules on infrastructure deployment would aggravate this patchy situation,” cautioned Huitema. “This should be avoided at all costs, as it would disincentivize consumers from switching to alternative powertrains and hamper cross-border travel.”

 

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