Since the 2nd century B.C., Hispania, as it was then known, has had a diverse and unique multicultural flavor that was founded on trade. Greeks, Romans, Celts and many others contributed to what was the early development of modern Spain.
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Today, Spain is a country of 46 million people, and a significant member of the European Union. While the country has embraced the 21st century with modern industries and infrastructure, you don’t have to look far to find vestiges of the old ways. Throughout most of Spain, ancient traditions like the afternoon siesta are still observed, and for the most part are a cherished part of the culture. But traditions aside, Spain has embraced modern living, and automobiles are a big part of the economy and the daily lives of most Spaniards.
Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately US$1.56 trillion is good for 16th place in the world. This puts their economy roughly on par with that of Canada, but with nearly twice the population. Spain’s economy and banking sectors were hit hard by the Great Recession. Housing values took a steep tumble in 2009, and the market has yet to fully recover. Spain is often cited, along with Greece, Ireland and Italy, as the trouble spots of the Eurozone. Spain has significantly less sovereign debt than Greece, and it is widely acknowledged that the greatest period of risk has already passed. But the situation continues to improve daily.
A continued European recession has hit Spain’s biggest industry, tourism, particularly hard. With Europeans tightening belts since the recession hit, Spain’s GDP shrank from 2008 through 2013. This was mostly a result of decreased tourism demand and a steep decline in home building in the vacation home sector of the economy. Spain’s economy is weighted towards services, with 70 percent of the economy being services related. Only 24 percent of Spain’s GDP is manufacturing related.
However, Spain is the second largest producer of motor vehicles in Europe, with more than 2 million units produced annually. From a new car sales perspective, Spain’s automotive recovery has already begun. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), new light vehicle sales were up more than 22 percent in the first four months of 2015, and commercial truck sales growth of 35 percent led all of Europe during the same period.
In 2014, the economy began to grow again, albeit at a slow 1.4 percent rate. This has impacted the growth of the motor vehicle population, which remains at about 27 million cars, trucks and motorcycles. Prior to the Great Recession U.S. exports of auto parts and accessories totaled more than US$266 million. By 2009, that number had fallen to just over US$113 million. Since then, U.S. exports have begun to climb again. In 2012, U.S. exports of auto related parts and accessories totaled just over US$160 million, and that number is expected to grow by about 3 percent to 5 percent a year.
“Even at the height of the recession, Spain’s automotive aftermarket sector remained dynamic. As the economy continues its recovery, the steady growth of the automotive sector in Spain, combined with the solid reputation of U.S. automotive repair and maintenance equipment, should continue to provide opportunities to U.S. companies,” says Carlos Perezminguez, a senior international trade specialist for the U.S. Commercial Service, based in the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.
The growth in automotive parts and accessories exported from the U.S. can be attributed to two key factors. Sophisticated engines and vehicles require equally sophisticated diagnostic tools and equipment, as well as electronic components that can’t be easily duplicated in low-cost countries. The reputation of high-tech U.S. suppliers greatly enhances the value of U.S. exports, and they are often the first choice of installers seeking quality parts and equipment.