Slovakia breaks record in car production, but future is electric

This year will be extremely demanding for the car industry in Slovakia.

(Source: TASR)

While Slovakia continues breaking annual records in car production, it should not rest on laurels and instead tackle the challenges the automotive sector faces. These include global ones especially linked with legislation reducing emissions in new cars as well as local ones, including the lag in the production of electric cars.

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“The results of the past year have turned out very well, which of course we are very glad about,” said Alexander Matušek, the president of the Slovak Automotive Industry Association (ZAP), at a press conference on January 10. “But one should realise that the automotive industry will face significant changes in the near future. This year will be extremely demanding.”

The challenges facing Slovakia’s automotive industry include, apart from pressure to produce cars with fewer emissions, a shortage of qualified labour, instability and the weak predictability of the business environment, low levels of R&D activities and insufficient development of cooperation between academia and industry, as well as the low level of mobility development on the basis of alternative propulsions and preparations for new forms of mobility.

Read also: Alexander Matušek: The automotive industry will undergo revolutionary changes Read more 

In 2018, more than 1,080,000 vehicles rolled off the carmakers' production lines in Slovakia, which is the highest figure in the history of the Slovak Republic. In the past few years, Slovakia has remained at the top of the world ranking in the number of cars produced per 1,000 inhabitants. In 2018, it kept its primacy by 198 vehicles, up eight cars year on year.

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ZAP estimates that car production will to amount to 1.15 million this year when the brand new Jaguar Land Rover plant in Nitra, which launched production only in late 2018, is expected to contribute to the final number.

Production of individual plants

Jaguar Land Rover launched production in its Nitra plant on October 25. The first model produced at the factory is the Land Rover Discovery, which will, after its production in Great Britain ceases in a few months’ time, be made exclusively in Nitra. Later, production should be extended with another model, while its identity remains unknown for now. The plant refused to specify the exact number of cars produced in Nitra so far, as well as when it will exactly increase its production to the planned 150,000 cars per year.

The oldest and biggest carmaker in Slovakia, the Slovak arm of the German carmaker Volkswagen, produced more than 400,000 cars in 2018. It will reveal the exact number only in spring, while it produced 361,776 cars in 2017.

The only Kia Motors plant in Europe, Kia Motors Slovakia near Žilina, manufactured 333,000 cars last year. While this is a slight drop of 0.8 percent compared to 2017, its spokesperson Jozef Bačé specified for the Denník N daily that this drop accounts for only two production days and that it was caused by the launch of new models.

Groupe PSA Slovakia in Trnava broke a record when it increased production by 5.1 percent year-to-year and produced 352,007 cars last year.

Going electric

While car plants in Slovakia are rather cautious in indicating their plans for the future, going electric has already becoming a necessity for them in order to remain competitive. For now, Volkswagen Slovakia is the only plant producing pure electric cars in Slovakia. It launched the production of e-Up! back in 2013. Nevertheless, all remaining carmakers have their own electric plans.

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