Arbùcies (Spain), a small country of 6,800 souls that has built their houses (and factories) making their way through the trees that make up the endless forests of this area of Catalunia, a rough and green land 43 kilometers from Girona and 86 from Barcelona. Arbùcies is a silent and deserted country that represents one of the outposts of bus production in Spain. Production that, unlike what happened in Italy, still resists.
Bus made in Spain, induced and human capital
The production ‘made in Spain’ insists not only in this area but also in the Basque Country (see, among others, Irizar) and in Galicia (Castrosua). All productions that have a strong reverberation on the induced and on the creation of what we could define: human capital. That is the creation of those skills that become value in a production system, such as the bus, which rests yes on an industrial profile but has a strong component of manpower. Skills that Italy has lost almost completely during the last 15-20 years..
A district for four builders
The area I visited is a patch of land where there are four bus manufacturers: Indcar, Beulas, Ayats and Noge bus. In Italy we would talk about ‘industrial district’ what Romano Prodi in a book of 1966 described as that: “group of enterprises” usually of small and medium size that “commit productive processes with high human commitment located in a circumscribed and historically territorial context determined ‘and specialized in one or more phases of a production process and’ integrated through a complex network ‘. A phrase, perhaps a bit ‘long articulated and affected, which best photograph the area of Arbùcies.
The four companies mentioned do not have industrial interconnection relationships if not at the level of territorial associations. In some cases, for historical events, relationships are tense as those of brothers who take different paths. Because brothers, in the end, a little ‘are. Beulas, Ayats and Noge bus are in fact all companies born for budding from Indcar, the company that has the longest history behind and that has created a generation of entrepreneurs able, over the years, to start their own companies.
The importance of exports
The four companies of Arbùcies are very different from each other. Beulas is the smallest with a limited production, very specialized, quality and focused on the coach. It is a family business, like the rest of the rest, but where it is difficult to see a real generational change at the top. Noge bus, after a thousand mishaps, returned to production. The square in front of the plant is flooded with vehicles destined for the internal market. The stories of Ayatz and Indcar are quite different. The first started production in Mexico where it was able to carve out important market shares. Also interesting are the volumes destined for the European quadrant as well as the drive towards innovation (the two electric plan seen at Fiaa is a great challenge). Along the same lines, but on different market segments, it is Indcar that in addition to producing at Arbùcies has opened a plant in Romania. The company led by Gael Queralt produces about 500 mini / midibuses a year, is present directly in Spain, France and Italy and has commercial relations with the countries of central and northern Europe. In an interview with Autobus, which will soon be published on the web and in the magazine, Gael Queralt outlines a company focused on innovation and the development of new products with a high technological content.
A system that supports the company
What you will read below is not intended to be an anti-union speech or a hymn to wild construction. But there is no doubt that in Spain, in addition to an industrial support policy, there is a system that guarantees companies a medium and long-term vision. In Indcar, for example, thanks to a union agreement, the workers work from 6 am to 14 pm (with three breaks). With a communication, sent in time, the company can ask its employees to work longer hours or temporarily suspend production so as to better meet the needs of the market (the concertation in Italy would not have produced this result). But the worker in Indcar is not a passive element of the production cycle. The company in fact constantly involves the workers informing them periodically on the progress and strategies. Choice that determines a different entrepreneurial relationship and has an important value on the quality of manufactured products. But there is another element that struck me. The headquarters of the Indcar is not made up of a single body but has different elements communicating with each other and located on different levels (we are in the mountains) made by modifying the natural profile. A project of this kind in Italy would encounter so many barriers that even the most determined entrepreneur could be desisted.
L’Italia dei piccoli
E in Italia? Oltre al gruppo IIA, alla ricerca di un assetto, a Rampini, concentrato nella nicchia dei ‘corti’ a pianale ribassato, a Iveco che a Brescia ha da poco avviato la produzione dei Daily Tourys, in Italia sono rimasti cinque piccoli costruttori: Barbi, Tomassini, Newcar (vedi Hitech bus), Sitcar e D’Auria. Piccole realtà, molto specializzate che in qualche caso esprimono grande qualità. Eppure incapaci di creare una rete, di fare sistema e di puntare il dito (con determinazione) sui mercati esteri.
Non solo flessibilità
Sarebbe troppo facile concludere dicendo che la flessibilità è l’unico elemento che ha decretato il successo del made in Spain e affossato, di contro, il made in Italy. Sicuramente la politica ha grandi responsabilità e la burocrazia ha appesantito lo slancio di qualche imprenditore. Ma vorrei ricordare che le produzioni spagnole non sono state sostenute dalla domanda interna (sino a tre anni fa il mercato italiano era più grande di quello spagnolo) ma dall’export e che la media dell’anzianità del parco circolante spagnolo è pressoché simile alla nostra, cioè ben al di sopra dei dieci anni. Il problema è culturale e la nostra classe imprenditoriale dovrebbe fare autocritica. Per una volta.