Increased UK automotive sector competitiveness as part of a dedicated industrial strategy could reward the country with a £106 billion prize from now until the end of the next parliament. The SMMT is calling on all political parties to to adopt five pledges and supercharge the EV sector. This would ensure British vehicles can be sold globally, and drive down the cost of clean energy, thereby unleashing the sector to lead the UK’s net zero revolution.
Such growth, however, is contingent on British plants attracting the next generation of electric models and scaling up an emerging EV supply chain, a process which puts the competitiveness of the sector into focus. As the sector consolidates its post-pandemic recovery, with sustained growth in new vehicle registrations, production output and manufacturing jobs – up 4 percent to a total of 208,000 jobs in the last year – it faces fierce global competition as other countries offer huge cash incentives and subsidies to attract green manufacturing.
The threat of tariffs from tougher local content rules under the UK-EU trade deal, which come into force in just six months’ time, would further disadvantage the industry. If not addressed, it would make British-built electric vehicles uncompetitive in our biggest export market, while pushing up EV prices for British buyers just as the UK and EU try to accelerate their uptake.
Inflationary pressures also loom large, with more than 80 percent of companies responding to SMMT’s latest automotive business confidence barometer reporting rising input costs, which are limiting profitability and acting as a brake on investment, despite an increase in orders and output. Furthermore, competitive energy prices are critical to long-term domestic EV production, with more than nine-in-10 firms citing the importance of energy price mitigation measures as essential to further investment. The UK automotive sector faces electricity costs more than double those of EU rivals, with the added challenge of long lead times to secure essential new grid connections for renewable investments.
Other measures seen as important by industry include improved trade support, regulatory certainty and, above all, a healthy EV market – for which lower energy costs, mandated charging infrastructure targets, and financial incentives for buyers, were ranked as the biggest drivers.
Yet amid these challenges the fundamental strengths of the UK automotive sector remain – a diverse supply chain spread nationwide, a flexible, highly skilled and productive workforce, iconic brands, and world-renowned R&D capabilities with unrivalled collaboration between academia and industry. This has helped the UK auto manufacturing sector achieve annual turnover of £78 billion, add £16 billion to the UK economy and invest around £3 billion in R&D every year. Currently, the sector supports some 800,000 jobs in total, including manufacturing, retail and aftermarket.4 With the right conditions and backing, this workforce can drive wholesale industrial transformation with a decade of benefits for wider society.
“The government has set the industry tough targets and we are committed to meeting them” said Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, speaking at the automotive industry’s annual Summit. “But we are in the middle of the most fiercely competitive investment landscape of a generation and need a UK response, urgently, using every policy, every fiscal and regulatory lever, to make Britain the most attractive place to invest. The automotive industry rises to every challenge, so we set out a challenge to all political parties: back us with the right conditions and we will turn our obligations into opportunities for our industry, for jobs, for the environment and for the UK.”
Manifesto 2030: Automotive growth for a zero emission future
The UK automotive industry calls on all political parties to commit to the following five pledges and policy actions:
A Green Automotive Transformation Strategy for a stronger economy
Publish a Green Automotive Transformation Strategy that supercharges UK Automotive to achieve net zero. A strategy which enables innovation, attracts investment and secures manufacturing of clean technologies in the UK to deliver economic growth and zero emission mobility.
Net zero mobility for everyone
Foster a reliable and affordable UK-wide recharging and refuelling network through binding targets complemented by a motor tax and regulatory system that ensures no one is left behind in the transition to net zero.
Green skills for a greener future
Offer the skills workers want, by creating a one-stop-shop national upskilling platform, and develop the future talent that business needs, combined with greater STEM education in schools and a dynamic immigration system that attracts global talent.
Made in Britain – Made for the world
Position automotive and advanced manufacturing supply chains at the core of UK trade policy and market access. Secure access to global markets for tariff-free export of British-made vehicles, batteries and green technologies, and deliver export support services that allow businesses of all sizes to succeed.
Powering the UK clean tech revolution
Ensure net zero-critical industries such as automotive are able to access affordable and internationally cost-competitive zero emission energy to power the clean tech revolution. Dedicated energy and investment measures should be available to make zero emission vehicle production and use a reality.
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