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January 2022 | Companies

Automotive components sector Spain: origins and history

The automotive components sector in Spain has been a global leader within the automotive components industry for decades. The keys to this leadership are the high standards of quality, their investment in technology and innovation, and their extensive experience. All of this, combined with competitive pricing, has turned many of these Spanish companies into strategic suppliers to the automotive industry worldwide.

Today, from the Autoparts from Spain blog, a platform integrated by around thirty Spanish automotive component manufacturers and led by Sernauto in collaboration with ICEX to boost the internationalization of these companies, we take a look back at the origins of the automotive components sector in Spain.


Origins of the Spanish Automotive Components Sector


The origins of the Spanish automotive components sector date back to the early 20th century, with companies like Hispano Suiza playing a key role.

In the 1950s, the establishment of SEAT marked a significant milestone that initiated the development of a robust industry of equipment and component manufacturers. The emergence of SEAT paved the way for Spain to become an ideal location for foreign top-tier manufacturers to set up their vehicle and component production plants.

The liberalization of the Spanish economy in the mid-1970s brought about a significant transformation of this industry with the establishment of new foreign vehicle manufacturers, further driving the growth of Spanish component companies.

Spain's entry into the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1986 facilitated and encouraged the expansion of many Spanish companies into the European market, exporting their automotive equipment and components to major brands in countries like Germany, France, and Italy. From that point on, exports continued to grow at an unstoppable pace.

In the 1990s, a consolidation process began within the Spanish automotive components sector, shaping it into the solid industry we know today, largely made up of Spanish family-owned companies that achieved significant growth, thanks primarily to the reactivation of the domestic market and exports. Furthermore, following vehicle manufacturers, foreign component companies, mainly from the United States, Germany, and France, began establishing themselves in Spain.

Also in the 1990s, the international economic crisis had a substantial impact on the Spanish sector, causing a stagnation in revenue for a few years, followed by a recovery in 1994. In the mid-1990s, Spanish component companies began expanding internationally and embracing the global market. From 2001 onwards, there was an intensified acquisition of companies and research and development centers in other countries, primarily in traditional markets such as Europe and the United States.

In 2007, the component sector reached its historic peak revenue, amounting to 33 billion euros. However, after the economic crisis in 2008, there was a significant drop in production due to a sharp contraction in domestic and international demand, difficulties in accessing credit, and rising unemployment. It was in this context that the sector increased its presence in emerging countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

The recovery of the Spanish automotive components sector from 2010 onwards was driven by the rebound of the European market, leading to an increase in the revenue of component suppliers to nearly 30 billion euros in 2011. However, once again, the contraction of the European market in 2012 caused a decline in the sector's revenue, though not to the levels seen in 2009.

In 2013, revenue increased, primarily due to higher vehicle production in the domestic market. The growth in domestic demand and the production of higher value-added vehicles continued to boost component revenue.

Data from 2015 confirmed the sector's recovery, and this upward trend continued in 2016. In that year, the sector's revenue exceeded 34 billion euros, surpassing the historic revenue peak of 33 billion euros in 2007.

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