Wolfgang Göbel takes over ECG presidency as confidence among European providers rises30 May 2016 | Christopher Ludwig
Göbel, who had been vice-president under Baldissara and a board member since 2003, is a long-time veteran of Germany’s Horst Mosolf, one of the largest providers of road, compound and rail services for vehicles in Europe; he was recently promoted to chief sales officer at the company. He is the fifth president of ECG since the association was founded in 1997.
Baldissara, who is commercial, logistics and operations director at Italian shipping and ro-ro operator Grimaldi Group, will remain at ECG as a board member.
Mats Eriksson, chief executive officer of Sweden’s Skandiatransport, has also been elected as vice-president; he has been a board member since 2008 and also served as ECG treasurer.
“Wolfgang is exactly who I wanted to serve with me as vice-president, and is exactly who I wanted to succeed me,” Baldissara said. “I have no doubt that the work we began and achieved together will continue.”
Göbel and Eriksson, who will each serve two-year terms, were elected during the ECG General Assembly on May 26th, held on the shores of Lake Maggiore in Baveno, Italy. The proceedings also re-elected the ECG board, which is now made up of 14 members.
Dawn of a new era
Göbel takes the helm at ECG, a Brussels-based lobby and industry body for vehicle logistics providers, at a time of recovering volumes in the European automotive sector and of renewed confidence among the region’s vehicle logistics providers. Sales of light vehicles in the European Union and European Economic Area are well into their third year of increase, having risen around 9.5% in 2015 to 17.3m units. With strong growth so far in the first four months of the year, led in particular by double-digit recoveries in Spain, Italy and France, sales are forecast to rise a further 5.5% this year to 18.3m, according to Justin Cox, head of European production at analyst firm LMC Automotive.
Production is growing at similar rates, expected to reach 20.2m units this year – a rise of 3.8%. Overall, compound annual growth of around 3% is expected for the rest of the decade – although the prospect of the UK voting to leave the European Union in a referendum set to take place on June 23rd could pose a major risk to both British vehicle sales and European production levels, according to Cox. LMC estimates the risk of a ‘Brexit’ vote at around 30-35%.
Despite that risk, the mood among vehicle logistics providers, measured by ECG’s 95 members, remains positive. Commenting on ECG’s quarterly members survey, Göbel pointed to “unprecedented confidence” reported by companies since the survey began, including for business optimism, access to financing, freight rates and capacity utilisation.
“We see that the sector is ready to invest,” he said, pointing in particular to plans among providers to expand trucking fleets.
However, Baldissara was a notable advocate of investing and maintaining service and capacity levels among the vehicle logistics sector, including for OEMs to take a long-term view of their business relations with logistics providers. Otherwise, the sector risked a severe shortage of equipment when recovery finally arrived.
By the end of his presidency, Baldissara’s warnings had, to some extent, been borne out. Since last year, as vehicle sales took off in southern Europe and continued their rapid rise in the UK, carmakers and logistics providers have struggled with shortages across various parts of Europe. During both the ECG Conference last October in Vienna, and the Automotive Logistics Europe Conference in Bonn this past March, carmakers including Renault Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover have noted shortages, and called on the sector to come together to address the issue, including supporting carriers in new truck investments.
Keep working together
The European vehicle logistics sector has also started to see progress in other ambitions that Baldissara set out earlier in his presidency. In 2012, for example, ECG, together with ACEA, the European carmakers’ association, attempted to set up a more formal dialogue between providers and OEMs, in part with the creation of an ACEA Automotive Logistics Working Group. However, ACEA eventually abandoned the working group.
Last October, however, the project was revived with the establishment of a new steering committee between ECG and most major European OEMs, with targets of working together more specifically in a number of key areas, including quality and capacity. The groups have already met several times.
Göbel praised Baldissara’s efforts in these areas, and noted that the sector was finally starting to achieve many of his visions.
“I think we are there now as the industry has taken a positive turn,” he said. “The past president was always keeping us alert. He always said ‘the enemy of the sector is not the client, it is often itself’.”
Egon Christ, who for more than a decade led Daimler’s global vehicle logistics before switching to head up purchasing for research and development last autumn, also commented on Baldissara and the ECG’s perseverance and success in creating better dialogue with OEMs. “In many ways, the vehicle logistics sector was better able to speak with one voice than we were as OEMs,” he said. “I want to tell logistics providers to keep together and maintain this dialogue – it is important.”
Göbel also emphasised the importance of the working groups across ECG, particularly those with carmakers, and the opportunities that they presented to exchange ideas and maintain strong relations. However, he noted that some of the working groups had a lower participation that would be ideal.
“The message I want most to send to all of you [ECG members] is to participate, and to send your best people to these working groups,” he said.
A board re-elected
ECG Board members were also elected, with each serving a one-year term. Along with Göbel, Baldissara and Eriksson, those who stood for re-election were Maximilian Altmann (from ARS Altmann); Michael Bünning (BLG Automobile Logistics); Krzysztof Dakowicz (Adampol); Marcos Duato (Flota Suardiaz); Ömer Gürsoy (Me-Par); Christian Lang (DB Cargo Logistics); and Ray MacDowall (ECM Vehicle Delivery Services).
Peter Borrmann, from STVA, and Konrad Zwirner, formerly from Hödlmayr International and now at BCA, stood down from the board and four new candidates were elected, Marc Adriansens (ICO); Olivier Benguigui (STVA); René Eisbrich (Lagermax) and Jon Kuiper (Koopman Logistics Group).