BRUSSELS - Paolo Cantarella promised a new spirit of cooperation with European legislators as he took over as president of ACEA, the European automakers' association.
'Rather than being part of European Union problems we want to be part of the solutions,' said the Fiat SpA chief executive in his inaugural speech as head of ACEA.
But Cantarella, who will serve in the ACEA post for two years, asked regulators not to impose costly and unnecessary emissions and safety rules.
'We want good, sound improvements in safety and emissions but everybody has to help reach the goal, not just the car industry,' he said.
Cantarella said the toughest fight will be proving the auto industry still needs the block exemption from EU competition rules that allows it to run exclusive distribution chains.
'It is the most effective way to sell our product and it will improve,' he said. 'The block exemption is not protection - it is service for the customer.'
Cantarella said it is too early to know what will happen to the block exemption. 'The solution is still under discussion. It is not an easy issue.'
Cantarella said the second 'serious obstacle' for the auto industry is a proposal for disposing of vehicles that have reached the end of their life cycle.
The proposed law is nearing the end of the approval process in the European parliament. A final debate on the issue has been scheduled for February 3.
Carmakers are lobbying heavily to amend the law proposed by the European Commission, to put some of the burden of paying for recycling on consumers and the recycling industry.
With regard to safety and emissions, carmakers have 'now reached a plateau in their ability to protect vehicle occupants,' said Cantarella.
EU regulations are stringent and deaths due to car accidents have decreased, he said. Carmakers are willing to discuss further safety improvements as long as regulators also realize that issues such as infrastructure, driver training and traffic congestion also need to be part of any solution, he said.
The same applies to emissions. In the coming years, cars 'will no longer be the major polluter' and other sources must also be controlled, he said.
Exports are a continuing problem because markets like Korea are 'still practically closed,' said Cant-arella. Korean makers increased their share in Europe to 3 percent last year while Europeans had a 0.15 percent share in the Korean market, he said.