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Flanders’ automotive ecosystem

Take a road trip through Flanders’ top-notch automotive business and innovative knowledge ecosystem.

Volvo - assembly plant in Ghent

At the core of Flanders’ automotive industry are two car assembly plants – Volvo (Ghent) and Audi (Brussels) – as well as bus and truck manufacturers Van Hool (Lier), VDL Bus & Coach (Roeselare), DAF Trucks (Temse) and Volvo Trucks (Ghent). Surrounding these production sites are over 300 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and aftermarket suppliers.

Various service providers, including software and consultancy companies, make up the diverse automotive landscape in Flanders.

Strong in innovation

Together with Flanders’ dense network of universities and market-driven strategic research centers, these companies and assembly plants create the right climate for continuous innovation and pioneering R&D in the automotive sector. As a result, Flanders is at the forefront of domains such as:

  • the development of new generation hybrid and electrical cars;
  • e-mobility;
  • autonomous driving;
  • and much more.

Know-how and research

Universities and university colleges

  • KU Leuven – The Department of Mechanical Engineering at KU Leuven has several research groups relevant to the automotive sector, including Thermal and Fluids Engineering, Engineering Dynamics, and Noise & Vibration Research.
  • Vives – Vives, part of the KATHO university college, is a center of competence for ‘in vehicle networks’. This includes data exchange between controllers via well-known network protocols like CAN, LIN, and MOST. Vives puts its knowledge and expertise at the disposal of companies and organizations that are using or investigating with CAN networks.
  • Karel de Grote University College – In its center of expertise for Sustainable Mobility, the Karel de Grote University College specializes in researching renewable fuels and drive systems.
  • Campus Group T Leuven – This renowned KU Leuven campus is home to several research groups, including Sustainable Engineering. This group concerns itself with, e.g. the development of sustainable vehicles (electrical, hybrid).
  • KU Leuven MRC – The KU Leuven Materials Research Center (LMRC) is an interfaculty collaborative center that centralizes 22 research divisions and focuses, amongst others, on lightweight en new materials applicable in automotive.
  • Campus De Nayer (Thomas More) – Thomas More University College offers research and expertise in alternative drivetrains and has its own test center for automotive technology (ATC).
  • MOBIMOBI, the Mobility, Logistics and Automotive Technology Research Centre, has 40 years of expertise in state-of-the-art research in sustainable mobility and logistics.

Research and knowledge centers

  • imec – Flanders’ nanotechnology, nanoelectronics and digital technology research center studies smart electronics and safer transport among other things.
  • VITO – Leading European independent research and technology organization based in Flanders, with a knack for cleantech and sustainable development.
  • Flanders Make – This strategic research center focuses on mechatronics and product development methods, power electronics and energy storage, human-centered systems engineering, and advanced production technologies. For each of these technological domains Flanders Make seeks to achieve results in four application areas: machines, vehicles, factories, and emerging applications.
  • Flamac – Flamac, Flanders’ material center, has developed unique, high-throughput platforms to accelerate materials R&D, including novel sensors, batteries, fuel cells, coatings, etc. 
  • Ford LPG – Ford Lommel Proving Ground is Ford’s main vehicle proving ground in Europe, and has a large and multidisciplinary team of engineers, mechanics, test drivers and maintenance technicians. 
    Operational 24/7, Ford LPF is perfectly equipped to simulate the entire life cycle of a new car model. Ford’s test cars and early-stage models cover a total of 12 million km at the circuit every year – on grounds the size of 415 soccer fields. The site also serves as the main test center for infotainment systems and driving assistance technologies (DATs) for autonomous driving.

Cluster and key organizations

  • Febiac – The Belgian federation for companies in the automotive industry, promoting the interests of vehicle constructors and importers.
  • Agoria – As the Belgian federation for the technological industry, Agoria also focuses on the vehicle industry, specifically in terms of innovation, technical regulations, manufacturing and R&D across the entire supply chain of vehicle manufacturers.
  • Numerous international automotive federations have offices in Belgium, and Flanders as a region:
    • ACEA – the Federation of the Automotive Producers in the EU
    • CLEPA – the European Association of Automotive Suppliers
    • EARPA- the European Automotive Research Partners Association
    • FIGIEFA – the federation for Automotive Aftermarket Distributors
    • EUROBAT – the federation for the European automotive and industrial battery industry
    • JAMA – the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association
    • EUCAR – the European Council for Automotive R&D
    • EGVI – European Green Vehicles Initiative
    • E.A.I.V.T – European Association of Independent Vehicle Traders
    • EATS – European Automotive Trim Suppliers Association
    • ETRMA – the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association
    • ETRTO – European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation

Companies

With production facilities in Flanders

  • Passenger vehicles: Volvo, Honda, Audi
  • Trucks: DAF, Volvo Trucks
  • Buses and coaches: Van Hool, VDL
  • Trailers: Fuellink
  • Motorcycles: Honda
  • Suppliers: Continental, Bombardier

With logistic operations in Flanders

  • Motor vehicle producers: Audi, Honda, Isuzu, Volvo, Subaru, Harley Davidson, Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai
  • Parts producers: Tenneco, Westlake, Bridgestone, Bosch, Emrald

With European headquarters in Flanders

  • Toyota, CAT, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, RAM, Bosal, Johnson Controls, GoodYear, Tenneco, Mazda

With an R&D center in Flanders

  • Toyota, Continental, Tenneco, Johnson Controls, GoodYear, TREMEC, Bosal

Examples of mayor players

  • Audi: has a 540,000 m2 production facility in Vorst (Brussels).
  • Toyota: This famous Japanese car manufacturer has several sites in Flanders:
    • Toyota Motor Europe HQ in Evere
    • Technical R&D center – including a major test track – in Zaventem
    • Toyota Parts Center Europe in Diest
    • Toyota Zeebrugge vehicle center
  • Tesla: has two service centers in Belgium, both in Flanders (Aartselaar and Zaventem), and one store in Brussels.
  • Volvo:
    • Volvo Cars Gent is Volvo’s largest production facility outside of Sweden.
    • Volvo Group Belgium is Volvo’s biggest truck production facility and parts distribution center worldwide. Volvo Group Trucks Ghent also the first CO2-neutral company in the global automotive sector.
  • Bridgestone Logistics Europe: has its largest warehouse located in Zeebrugge (Flanders).
  • VDL Group: has its main expertise center for electric and hybrid buses in Roeselare, West Flanders.