The Slovenia Times

A Cluster of Opportunities



The Automotive Cluster of Slovenia (ACS) was established in 2001. In that time how has it helped the Slovenian automotive industry?
Together with its member companies and research support institutions, the ACS brings solutions to marketing, technology and research and development (R&D) challenges. Through productive cooperation we keep increasing our competitive advantage, discovering new business opportunities, reducing costs and business risks in joint market approaches, as well as investing in R&D and educational environments. Importantly, we also create new products and services that will lead to increasing demand on both existing and emerging markets. The organisation has been constantly growing since 2001, from the initial 12 members to 61 now (55 companies and six R&D institutions).

What would you say are the major strengths of the Slovenian automotive industry?
With state-of-the-art production, high productivity, quality, and cost-efficiency, the Slovenian automotive industry can play the role of an equal partner to car manufacturers. We also have effective collaboration with the research sector and global connections in supplier chains. We have derived numerous innovations from the excellent collaboration with universities - some of these innovations place the Slovenian automotive sector at the very top end of the global automotive industry.
We specialise in important areas such as energy efficiency, safety applications, locking mechanisms which improve passenger safety upon impact and car seats and head rests.

How did the sector cope with the crisis?
At the first signs of the crisis ACS, in collaboration with automotive industry companies and support institutions, managed to establish a dialogue with the government. This resulted in long-term loans from the SID Banka for the Slovenian automotive industry.
In addition, refundable grants are and have been crucial for maintaining development intensity in the industry. They enable the realisation of new projects won by Slovenian development suppliers against tough international competition. This ensures the long-term competiveness of Slovenian automotive suppliers.

Do you think that further government support is needed?
In the European Union, the automotive industry is one of the three development priorities. It is supported by the European Commission with the EUR 5 billion green vehicle initiative. Considering the importance of the automotive industry, it should get similar attention in Slovenia.

How does the pre-crisis Slovenian automotive industry compare to the post-crisis one?
In 2008, sales reached EUR 3.08 billion, but dropped to EUR 2.4 billion in 2009. In 2010 the number climbed to EUR 2.8 billion. Experts predict that we will reach the 2007 figure in car sales in 2012 and in commercial vehicles by 2013. In any case, the promising results achieved in the first half of 2011 demonstrate that the pre-crisis sales level is not that far away.

How does the sector here compare to that in other countries?
In Slovenia, we have development and pre-development suppliers, but most importantly we have competencies which can play an important role in seizing new opportunities: vehicle hybridisation and electrification, radical lowering of consumption in internal combustion motors, mechatronic systems, light-construction vehicles, etc.

What would you say are the main issues facing the automotive industry today?
Today, the industry is facing important ecological, safety and reliability challenges and challenges in material and technology improvements. The main goal is to make an affordable car which will offer more comfort and safety and comply with stricter ecological standards.

What activities is ACS involved in at the moment? What successes have there been?
Thanks to our incessant innovation method, we have managed to intensify activities in optimising production, identification and work on joint development projects. We run regular skills and education programmes, such as project management in automotive industry, ACS school of quality and development of new automotive products. So far, two consortia with ACS members have been successful in Slovenian Economy Development Centres bids, one in the automotive industry (Si.EVA) and the other in materials and technologies (SIMIT).
The crucial activity at the moment is the successful realisation of opportunities opened up by the cooperation of Renault-Nissan and Daimler in 2013/2014, carried out in Revoz.

Are there any international projects?
Yes - we have intensified activities in the field of internationalisation through organising business delegations, cluster members' presentation to car manufacturers and system suppliers, successful joint presentation at fairs in Stuttgart, Togliatti (Russia), Kragujevac (Serbia), and Munich (Germany).
We continue our cooperation with Japanese car manufacturers and system suppliers and have established cooperation with Korean partners. We have also signed a memorandum on cooperation with the Association of Ukrainian Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (Ukrautoprom) and continue to work on the network of suppliers and support development institutions projects in Serbia and Samara region in Russia, which will enable us to enter Fiat and Avtoavaz global supplier chains.

Do you have connections with other countries' automotive associations?
Through Autoclusters and AutoNet projects we have developed cooperation with EU automotive clusters, mostly Central and Southeast European ones. These entail important inter-company meetings and thematic business conferences that offer new business opportunities. Together with interested cluster members we are participating in an EU project dealing with the use of recycled tyres in producing price-efficient plastic and rubber automotive products.

What are the plans for 2012 and what will be the focus for ACS?
In 2012 we of course plan to carry on the work started in 2011. But we will also enhance activities in joint development projects, intensify work in the area of internationalisation and new markets developed over the past years. Particular attention will be devoted to celebrating ACS's 10th anniversary in March and to the inter-company meeting. Another key focus will be the JAMA-CLEPA exhibition in September 2012, which aims to create new business opportunities for Japanese car manufacturers and European suppliers as well as enhance existing ones.


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