There is no doubt that one of the key sectors for the Spanish economy is the automobile industry. According to figures from the Spanish car and truck manufacturer association (ANFAC), it contributed 6.7% of GDP in 2013 (10% once all activities related to automobiles are included, such as insurance and distribution). It also added 16% to the total for exports and employed, directly and indirectly, 8.1% of the country's labour force.
The motor vehicle industry was one of the first to revive after the crisis, with the annual rate of change in vehicle manufacturing workers affiliated to Social Security already achieving positive figures by September 2013, five months sooner than the economy as a whole. Other indicators also confirm the sector's good performance and point to a healthy future. Growth in turnover has been consolidating for several months, first in motor vehicle manufacture and then in the number of sale and repair operations, reaching high year-on-year growth rates in June of 10.5% and 12.0%, respectively.
In 2013, vehicle production increased by 9.3%, coming close to 2.2 million units. Spain therefore led the growth in manufacturing in Europe: Germany and the United Kingdom grew by 1% while France and Italy suffered big setbacks, 11.6% and 2%, respectively. Should this rate continue, 2.4 million vehicles will have been made in Spain in 2014, a higher figure than the one recorded in 2011 and close to the average for the period between 2004 and 2007, namely 2.6 million.
The motor vehicle industry has also helped to boost exports and thereby stimulate Spain's economic recovery. For one year now automobile exports have far outperformed activities as a whole, helped by a considerably wide range of destinations. In 2013 a total of 1.9 million vehicles were exported, 8.7% more than the previous year and with increasing numbers towards new countries such as Algeria, the US and Turkey. Although this growth in exports halted during the first few months of 2014 due to changes in the assembly lines to launch new models, exports should continue to increase once this adjustment phase is over.
The automobile industry is also reflecting the improved household confidence in the economic recovery, as well as the support of plans to stimulate vehicle purchases (such as the PIVE plan), implemented over the last few years. In 2013, 0.8 million vehicles were sold in Spain, 4% more than the previous year, and this trend is expected to continue due to the relatively old age of Spain's existing cars (the average age of vehicles in Spain was 11.3 years in 2013, much higher than the 8.5 years in 2007 and 8.3 for the EU in 2010).
Another determining factor in the progress of the motor vehicle industry is the increase in the national share of the market: i.e. the percentage of vehicles registered in Spain that have been produced in the country. Since 2012, incentives to buy efficient vehicles (the PIVE plan) have boosted the national share in the market (going from 22.3% in 2011 to 24.3% in 2013) since a large part of the aid was aimed at segments of cars made in Spain. In the future, it is vital to strengthen the competitiveness of nationally produced vehicles to ensure this improvement in the share does not depend entirely on the design of programmes to boost vehicle sales.