Cardinali (Unrae) Without incentives the market will not recover

The auto market closes another month in negative. With 107,814 registered cars, in January sales fell by 19.7% compared to 2021, but if you compare the data with previous years you can see how over a third of registrations have been lost in three years. We interviewed the general director of Unrae, Andrea Cardinali, who commented on the final balance of January 2022 for the Italian car market.

In January, registrations fell by 19%. Was such a heavily negative figure expected in the first month of the year?
We expected it, it is a figure in the wake of the last months of 2021. Last year, then, there were the incentives. However, the progression of the loss in recent years is impressive: in January 2019 166,019 cars were registered, in January 2020 there were 156,904, in 2021 135,008, now 109,008. In three years, 34% has been lost. A level that takes us back decades.

Beyond the dynamics of the operators, how much part of this umpteenth collapse was caused by the lack of incentives compared to January 2021?
As we have said on other occasions, there is a series of contributing causes, from delays in deliveries due to the microchip crisis to the contraction in demand due to the economic crisis. Surely the end of the incentives has had a very marked impact on the cars with the plug. The share of pure electric and plug-in hybrids went from 13.6% in December to 8.4% in January, more than five points less in a month. And we can’t rule out that the January license plates still benefited from a queue of incentives last fall.

Will the market not recover without incentives?
Certainly not the electric market. The cost gap compared to traditionally powered cars remains. Indeed, with the tension that exists on some raw materials it risks widening. Of course, the diffusion of charging stations is slowly growing, but there is nothing that can significantly increase the propensity to buy these cars.

How much can the January figure be influenced by the expectation of incentives? Isn’t it that private individuals and businesses are at the window, if they can, waiting for contributions?
Those who have not remained on foot can certainly postpone the purchase for a few months and see if some opportunities open up, but not the companies. It is difficult for a company to be so tactical, it has car policies to respect, contracts expiring. A company cannot navigate by sight. That said, without incentives the transition stops, indeed it is already stopping. In January, the share of electricity returned to the levels of April 2021. It is clear that the transition has come to a halt.

In your opinion, the government no longer cares about the transition to the car?
I can only say that if he is interested, so far he has not proved it with tangible facts. Then, of course, with regard to the industrial aspects there is probably a different attitude. The Italian industry needs to be supported, as well as the European one. But support for demand must also be central to the government’s agenda, to give consumers precise indications. Without the demand, any industrial reconversion would be incomplete.

In this situation, however, the circulation is getting older, more and more insecure, with emissions that are increasingly incompatible with the future that has been designed. Has the issue of the environment and traffic safety become secondary?
In these days, the reimbursement of the mobility bonus, the contribution to the scrapping of cars without purchasing a new car, has become operational. We will finally see what impact these initiatives have had on citizens. Frankly, I have some doubts that this is the way to go. I believe that such a tool has an extremely limited appeal, in the absence of valid alternatives to the use of a private car, and therefore cannot affect the environmental problem.

However, at a certain point the minister and the undersecretary for economic development had become unbalanced on the incentives. Minister Giovannini, on the other hand, had crushed them. Do you think there is a political problem within the government? Or is it just a matter of priorities at a time of great energy crisis?
The issue is certainly a delicate one: evidently up to now it has not received the attention it deserved, even with respect to other emergency priorities. Today’s statements by Minister Giorgetti, on the sidelines of a table to discuss the issues of the industrial chain, would give us hope for the future. Without providing any details, the minister spoke of upcoming incentive proposals, which in the coming weeks should be presented by Mise and Mef jointly. We hope that they will be effective and adequately financed measures, and we cannot fail to support once again the proposals that Unrae has repeatedly formulated in this regard, in recent months, in all institutional fora.

Don’t you think that there are differences between the various souls of the majority?
I do not comment on the internal balances of the majority, but I can say that the same political forces that make up the current majority, albeit with different sides to the current one, have already approved incentives for 2019, 2020 and 2021. So for this team government, supported by a very large majority, should be even easier. It would involve moving from emergency and short-term interventions to multi-year measures, and this perhaps makes the situation more complex.

It is too early to make forecasts, but sooner or later there will be a rebound, if only for mere reasons of over-aging of the working capital, will there be?
I see no elements for a rebound. There is a certain elasticity in circulation, people will continue to use their current car as long as they can. Aside from the luxury segment, which has dynamics of its own, cars “with the plug” will suffer. In my opinion, even in 2022 we will close around one and a half million registrations.


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