Car industry lobby spending keeps on growing

LobbyFacts currently only presents data from the EU lobby transparency register up to 19 September 2021. This is due to recent changes made by the EU register; we are working to present these on LobbyFacts as soon as possible.

September 1st, 2016
by Vicky Cann

New analysis from LobbyFacts shows a consistent increase in car industry lobby spending from 2011, with a major increase in 2014. The declared spending for the car industry went from €7.6million in 2011 to €20.2million in 2014. The figure for declared industry lobby spend in 2015 is currently running at €13.25million, but several big spenders still have not reported their spending for that year.


As the timeline below makes clear, there were major lobby battles being fought by the car industry in recent years: 2013 (CO2 emissions cars); 2014 (NOX emission standards, Euro 6); and 2015 (Real Driving Emissions). Aside from the specific lobby battles being fought by the car industry, other reasons for the growth in declared lobby spending include the gradual increase in car industry lobby actors joining the lobby register and also changed registration rules, increased public pressure and media scrutiny to become more transparent.

In 2014, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) posted a lobby spend of €5,100,000, which might have been a mistake, considering its previous declarations of €200,000. With that high figure included, 2014 car industry lobby spending was €20,295,122. Even using the SMMT’s previous average spend of €200,000, 2014 was still the year of the highest car industry spend on EU lobbying: €15,395,122 which still represents a 43 per cent increase in lobby spending on 2013. In 2015, the SMMT downscaled its reported spending back to €200,000.

The drop in spending from 2014 to 2015 is also caused by Volkswagen not yet disclosing its 2015 spending. We can imagine that they are thinking deep and hard about how to update it and when, in the light of the Dieselgate scandal which which brought the company's lobbying and influence into the public spotlight.

ACEA (the Association des Constructeurs Européens d'Automobiles) posts an identical lobby spend for four years of €2,000,000; such figures should be treated with suspicion and caution considering the register requirement to calculate lobby spend figures each year, and the fact that their declared numbers of lobbyists has changed over the period.

Below we list some of the lobby battles that the car industry has been involved in at the EU level year by year, alongside declared lobby spending for the year in question (as per 1 June for each year).



  • Real Driving Emissions - Light Duty Vehicles (RDE-LDV) Commission expert group set up to develop Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure

  • Publication of first set of recommendations for specific actions by CARS21 High-level group which aims to “develop an action plan and a vision for a competitive EU automotive industry and sustainable mobility in 2020 and beyond”

  • Publication of Commission white paper “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area - Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system”

  • Annual industry lobby spend: €7,651,500 (16 lobby actors)



  • Final report adopted by the CARS21 High-level group and action plan for the car industry

  • Commission proposal on how the legally-binding targets for new cars to emit less carbon dioxide should be met

  • Annual industry lobby spend: €10,493,100 (17 lobby actors)



  • Commission’s CARS 2020 High-level group “to ensure that the Commission supports the sector and strengthens the automotive industry in the long run”

  • Fitness check on “framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles” (Framework Directive)

  • Negotiations between Council, Commission and Parliament to finalise how the legally-binding targets for new cars to emit less carbon dioxide should be met. In June; the Irish Presidency of the Council, the Commission and European Parliament reached an agreement on the final text but the agreement was blocked at the last minute by Germany. A final deal was struck under the Lithuanian Presidency in December 2013, marginally amending the previous agreement by phasing in the regulation by 1-year

  • Start of negotiations on the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP)

  • Annual industry lobby spend: €10,761,333 (19 lobby actors)



  • The European Council of Member States have now approved the revised deal on legally-binding targets for new cars unanimously and the European Parliament accepted the new agreement

  • CARS 2020 High-level group’s final report published indicating “the direction for future short and medium-term actions”

  • Annual industry lobby spend: €20,295,122 (20 lobby actors).



  • EU debate and votes on Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure proposals

  • Dieselgate scandal first emerges into public domain

  • Annual industry lobby spend: €13,250,000 (16 lobby actors).


Full figures are available in this spreadsheet.

Update: article amended 8 September 2016 to remove references to EURO5b and EURO6.

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