05/03/2021

The electric car and economic recovery

2 min
Seat plant in Martorell. Cristina Calderer
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The president of Volkswagen group, Herbert Diess, confirmed yesterday that the Seat plant in Martorell will manufacture electric cars at the event marking the 70th anniversary of the brand, which was attended by the king, Felipe VI, and the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez. The announcement was eagerly awaited by the unions, as it guarantees the continuity of a plant where 12,000 people work and on which many more jobs depend. But it is great news for the whole sector and for the Catalan economy in general, since it is a leap towards a green and cutting-edge industry, in line with what the European Commission has set as a condition for access to European funds. The announcement is also a message of hope for a sector that in recent times has seen how Nissan left Catalonia and how the pandemic has sunk car sales.

To get an idea of the importance of the news, we must remember that the automotive sector represents 10% of Catalan GDP, has 11,000 companies and directly employs 56,200 people, which is more than 143,000 if we include distribution and repair. Therefore, it is essential to modernise the sector and adapt it to new mobility technologies to ensure its viability. This transition will not be easy and will have costs, but it is necessary and must be accelerated if we do not want to fall behind. This means that the State and the Generalitat have to make a firm commitment to electrification and encourage the purchase of these less polluting vehicles.

The other focus of attention of the day was the absence of Catalan authorities, who wanted to protest against the figure of King Felipe VI, highly questioned in Catalonia for his speech of October 3, 2017. This type of boycotts, which are understood from a political point of view, have, however, a danger, and that is to transfer the image that the Catalan rulers are not interested in the economy or have other priorities. With yesterday's gesture, it was the Spanish president, Pedro Sanchez, who capitalised on Diess's announcement, when the Generalitat battled for years to get the electric car and the consellera Àngels Chacón already approved a plan of specific aid to companies back in the day.

Precisely, businesses demanded on Thursday in a joint event in Barcelona that the next Government focus on economic recovery and reduce political tension. It is a reasonable demand in the midst of the pandemic, but the question that the signatories of the manifesto should ask themselves is what they can do to help create a context conducive to dialogue. And there is something very easy but very symbolic, which would be for the companies that moved their headquarters out of Catalonia after 1-O to return to their original location. It is well known that the production centres have continued in Catalonia, and that large companies like Seat refused to make the move, but this gesture would be especially relevant and would help to send the message that everyone is now in favour of focusing on economic recovery.

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