Romania’s automotive industry focuses on low-budget cars and is therefore well positioned to take advantage of the shift in consumer preferences driven by the recent economic downturn.
In spite of a sharp decline in sales in the region during 2013, there is a positive outlook for 2014 in terms of automotive production. BMI forecasts a 9.1% increase in the total number of units to be produced by the end of 2014 at regional level. This positive outlook is sustained with arguments which include competitive wages, an educated and productive labor force and ongoing investment in manufacturing. However, analysts expect some car manufacturers to encounter overcapacity problems in 2014 as a result of declining sales figures in the previous year.
According to BMI, production of passenger cars (out of total vehicles produced) in Romania, in 2013, increased by 4.3% in comparison to figures in 2012, whereas in 2014 a 9.6% increase is expected. There are two key factors favoring the positive outlook in production. Firstly, there is a large number of companies investing in Romania and secondly, wages in the country continue to remain competitive when compared to neighboring countries.
Local automotive production hit a record high of 410,959 units in 2013. Out of the total production, 91% was exported. As a result, automotive exports increased by 12% in 2013.
Among domestic producers, car maker Dacia reported a production of 342,610 new units in Mioveni plant in 2013, an increase of 11.5% from 2012. Reported production was based primarily on new generations of Logan and Sandero, along with the new Duster facelift which was launched at the end of 2013.
The other leading car maker in Romania, Ford, produced 68,339 units in 2013, the highest figure ever attained in Craiova plant. However, the company was set to produce volumes of 250,000-300,000 cars per year when Ford first acquired the plant in 2008. These figures highlight the overcapacity problem forecasted by industry reports.
Foreign investments made by Dacia Renault and Ford Motor in Romania attracted key automotive parts suppliers, improving overall production figures. For example, tires manufacturer Pirelli Romania invested EUR 105 million in its Slatina plant in 2013, a move which is part of its investment plan spanning from 2013 - 2017. Pirelli’s investment was backed by an additional amount of EUR 35 million granted by the Romanian Government. Production of tires is expected to reach 10 million units in 2014 following the latest investments.
According to APIA (Automotive Manufacturers and Importers Association), a 30% year-on-year rise in sales of passenger cars and slight recovery in the commercial vehicles segment have been observed in the first eight months of 2014 in Romania. By comparison, last year figures highlighted a decline of 13% in passenger car sales in Romania, from 66,436 in 2012 to 57,710 units in 2013 (OICA Sales Statistics, 2013). The 2013 decline was driven by the slowdown in consumption and a sharp decline in banking credit. Another important aspect directly affecting automobile purchasing is oil price. In 2014, Romania witnessed further fuel price increases as a result of a 7% excise. Romania is reportedly the 9th member of the EU in terms of highest diesel fuel prices.
Dacia remains the leading player on the local market in terms of passenger car sales and also an important player on the European car market. In 2013, Dacia increased its EU sales by 23.3%, reaching a total of 289,000 new units sold. It came out as the brand with the biggest growth in EU, according to ACEA. Dacia increased its market share in EU from 1.9% to 2.4%, while in Romania it remained the leading player in terms of sales, with a market share of 15%.
Ford Romania, the second automotive producer on the Romanian market, is an important exporter as well. Figures show that 31,520 Ford B-max, Ford’s bestseller, units were sold in the EU in Q1 2014. In terms of Romanian automotive sales to EU countries, Dacia Sandero takes the leading position in Q1 2014, with 77,400 units sold, an increase of 37.2% from 2013’s corresponding period. Furthermore, Dacia is the leading auto brand in terms of sales in Moldavia and Bulgaria, alongside Romania.
Expected regulatory impact
In the context of the EU membership, the Romanian automotive industry is highly regulated. At least from the point of view of environmental regulations, there have been long negotiations regarding the 2020 target to reduce CO2 emissions for new passenger cars. The emission limit to be achieved by 2020 (delayed to 2021) is 95 grams of CO2 per km. In 2013, Renault succeeded to produce the lowest medium CO2 emissions in the EU (110.1 g/km). Dacia models which use similar motors follow closely; with emissions of 127.1 g/km. Achieving the emission target comes at a high cost for automotive producers across the EU, who argue that the financial impact of new technologies needed on vehicle prices will affect their sales.