Kia Motors Corp. churns out about 1,400 new cars every working day in Zilina, a city in Slovakia’s northern industrial heartland. They all rely on gasoline or diesel.
“It’s going to take a lot of power to transform this industry and if only for the sake of security — national security — we should have it,” said Peter Badik, who owns a company that has 27 charging points in the country. “We should be in the first row of the debate and we’re not.”
The region from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south is home to a concentration of carmakers, auto parts suppliers and raw materials producers. They were attracted by relatively low costs and high skills following the fall of the Iron Curtain. They make everything from small cars for Toyota Motor Corp., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and PSA, to compacts for Kia and Skoda family saloons and Audi TT sports cars for VW.
VW’s plant in Bratislava, which employs almost 12,700 people, has been producing the e-up! in Slovakia since 2013.
The German company’s main regional subsidiary, Skoda Auto AS in the Czech Republic, is planning five all-electric models beginning in 2025. PSA in western Slovakia plans to produce e-vehicles and already halted building a new combustion engine facility, according to spokesman Peter Svec.
At the Jaguar Land Rover Automobile Plc plant, still under construction in Nitra, central Slovakia, the British company has applied for permission to add a new wing, chiefly for battery production.
Ground-breaking for a plant by South Korean battery maker SK Innovation Co. will begin this year in Hungary and Continental Automotive GmbH announced plans for an electronics component factor in Lithuania, which can also include electric car parts, said spokeswoman Alena Liebram.
“You can see that there is a heavy concentration in the car industry and this matters, especially in the supply chain,” said Doris Hanzel-Weiss, an economist the Vienna Institute of International Economic Studies and the author of a report on the region’s industry. “This is very important for eastern Europe.”