International Automotive Conference 2013 in Bulgaria

Automation & RoboticsEventsSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 4/2013

8-10 October 2013 - Sofia, Bulgaria

The ACB International Automotive Conference (IACB) was one of the first large-scale automotive events in Bulgaria. The conference discussed new market opportunities in South East Europe with a special focus on Bulgaria.

IACB gather leaders of the industry in Western and Eastern Europe and the Far East who highlighted their successful experiences and discussed key issues in developing new markets.

This 3-day event featured senior-level speakers from top automotive companies among which Daimler, Volkswagen, BMW, Porsche, Great Wall, Johnson Controls, Wurth Elektronik IBE and many others and drawn an audience close to 300.

The IACB offered exclusive panel discussions, multifaceted contact areas and high-quality information exchange on business set-up and local development strategies. Furthermore, in a special one-day factory tour the delegates were able to visit the production lines of international automotive companies and build a better understanding of the sites’ performance potential.

The president opened the first automotive conference
The President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev opened the International Automotive Conference 2013 which took place at the Sofia Event Center (Paradise Center).

The event is the first of its kind forum that brings together over 100 representatives of leading automotive OEMs and suppliers. The conference is organized by the Automotive Cluster Bulgaria (ACB). "I am happy to open the first of its kind automotive conference which gives possibilities for the development of the automotive industry in Bulgaria in the future.

 No doubt it contributes to the economic prosperity in each country. The European Union is the largest carmaker in the world and I am glad that Bulgaria also takes its place in the automotive chain. 20 billion euro for innovations is being invested in this sector in Europe.

In the 80s Bulgaria was one of the 30 most developed industrial countries, so let us not underestimate the capacity and ability of schools and universities to provide qualified personnel. Besides the Automotive Cluster, the Cluster of Information Technologies is also very successful in our country, providing 35,000 job openings and servicing 140 companies nationwide", the President said.

Currently there are over 140 companies in BG that export products and technologies for the automotive industry worldwide. "I could list many examples, such as the Great Wall factory in Lovech, the Automotive Leather Company for the production of leather seats for BMW, the Yazaki factory in Yambol, a second one will soon be opened in the country.

 Melexis is also recognized as the most high-tech company in the country with 600 million BGN turnover. Festo is building a second factory in Sofia and will increase its staff from 550 to 1500. Johnson Controls has a development center with 550 engineers, working in Sofia", Plevneliev said.

The advantages in investment in bulgaria were presented
Advantages and disadvantages of investing in Bulgaria were presented in the International Automotive Conference in a panel moderated by Svetoslav Mladenov, Executive Director of the Investment Agency. "Bulgaria has many advantages as a strategic location, very low wages; flat income tax 10% and 0% for regions with low unemployment.

Investors receive shorten administrative procedure by one-third, also financial assistance for training employees to acquire vocational training and infrastructure development. By the end of the year we will have 50 working factories in the automotive industry.", said Mladenov.

His statement was confirmed by Mr. Alexander Uzunov, Head Key Projects at Behr-Hella Thermocontrol. The company invests in construction of a new plant for auto parts in Bozhurishte, close to Sofia for 42.5 million lev.

 "We have looked at more than 50 locations in Europe and we took into account several factors such as quantity, quality, logistics, payroll, stability, legislation. We have received support by the Bulgarian government. We were thinking also of Macedonia, but chose not to take it because of our specific needs. For example proximity to international airport, as it is in Sofia.", said Uzunov. According to the professional, Bulgaria must do more to improve the image of the country for foreigners on their first arrival.

Dr. Mitko Vassilev, CEO of the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce, presented analysis, according to which 75% of the 78 German companies in the country would invest again and are satisfied with its operations in the country.

"The result is good and positive, but still low when compared to other countries. SMEs have a huge potential for development. In Germany there are more than 400 supporting programs; in Bulgaria we still don’t have such amount. Yes, there is corruption, as well as in Germany, but last year there was no change in the right direction." said Vassilev.

Mr. Marcel Schwab from Ernst & Young promised assistance to all companies that are preparing to invest in Bulgaria.

 "We can help the companies with information about the legislation system. Bulgaria is much better country as what pictures are showing abroad. Companies feel these advantages and we support them. Here are coming investors who need low-cost productivity and highly qualified staff.

I am telling them to invest the difference of lower taxes, compared with other places, in training. This will have a very quick return on investment. People are very well educated in the schools, but not in the technical sense. I think many still do not prefer Bulgaria as a destination because of ignorance."

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