Business Day update from motor show – 26 May 14:00

26 May 2004 #SMMT News

  • Chancellor congratulates motor industry on contribution to UK economy
  • Chancellor meets local apprentices on tour
  • Mazda’s numbering death wish
  • TV road test family give show the green light
  • Sports car makers shake up dealer networks

Chancellor congratulates motor industry on contribution to UK economy

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, today congratulated the UK’s automotive industry on its “vital contribution” to the UK’s economy.

During a visit to The Sunday Times Motor Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham, the Chancellor said:

“I’m delighted to be visiting Motor Show Live to see at first hand what a great job the UK’s automotive sector is doing and pay tribute to the vital contribution it makes to our national economy.

“And I can tell you today that the ten year science and innovation plan we will announce in the next few weeks will be a major boost for manufacturing strength. Building on the Manufacturing Advisory Service, capital allowances, corporation tax cuts and the Research and Development tax credit, we will seek to make Britain the best location for new investment and innovation. And we will raise the level of science funding as a share of national income in the next spending review period.

“The motor industry has risen to the challenges of globalisation and international competition and not just survived, but thrived.

“The UK automotive industry sector contributes some £8.5 billion to the UK economy and accounts for almost ten per cent of total UK exports of goods.

“Almost 250,000 people across the country are employed in the manufacture of vehicles and components in some 3,200 businesses. Another 544,000 work in the automotive retail sector.

“And the motor industry makes a major contribution not just to employment and exports, but to innovation in our economy – investing £1.2 billion a year in research and development – and to our training and skills as well with over 20,000 young apprenticeships.

“The motor industry has won for Britain huge amounts of inward investment with some of the world’s leading manufacturers choosing to locate new plants in the UK. 68 per cent of the vehicles produced in the UK are exported. And companies in the supply chain trade with customers and suppliers right around Europe.

“That’s why our commitment as a Government is that we will make the case for our membership of the European Union – which accounts for 55 per cent of the UK’s trade – for the advantages it brings to Britain, and for Britain being a leader in an enlarged Europe.

“I am particularly pleased to be able to pay tribute to the contribution the automotive sector makes to our country here in the West Midlands.

“40 per cent of the UK’s motor industry income is generated here in the West Midlands. The sector provides jobs for around 65,000 employees in the region with many more jobs provided in the supply chain.

“And the successes we celebrate here have helped create 80,000 jobs in the West Midlands alone since 1997.”

Chancellor meets local apprentices on tour

Gordon Brown met four young apprentices in automotive design during his tour of The Sunday Times Motor Show Live.

Discussing their four year scheme with the Chancellor were: Jaguar’s Sarah Cookes, 20, and Alex Edgington, 19, both from Coventry; and Land Rover’s Rebecca Champion, 20, from Warwick and Matthew Smith, 18, from Nuneaton.

All four youngsters, who are based at the design studios in Gaydon, Warwickshire, signed up for their apprenticeships before they were 18. As they approach the end of their training they are all feeling secure and confident about the future.

Rebecca, who was first introduced to Land Rover during a work placement when she was 15, left her A levels mid way to take up the scheme. She said: “When I sat down with my parents to look at what was on offer to me the apprenticeship was far more attractive than continuing my A levels and going on to university. The scheme has paid me to learn, I’m in a much better position than my friends who are doing degrees. I’m not in debt and can afford to be independent.”

Matthew pointed out: “The best thing about my apprenticeship is that it gives me qualifications and experience. It’s fine to have a degree but you come out of university without any understanding of how business really works.”

By the time the four finish their apprenticeships they will have accomplished HNC and NVQ level 3 qualifications and can look forward to a bright future in the automotive industry.

Mazda’s numbering death wish

Mazda UK’s plans to call its new MPV, the 4, have proved to be a dead loss after the Hiroshima-based parent company revealed the number is associated with death and doom in the Asia Pacific region.

As a result the flexible format people carrier, which will offer five, six of seven seats, remains a car without a name, or number. It is taking centre stage on Mazda’s Sunday Times Motor Show live stand in Flexa concept car form.

With Mazda’s UK managing director Phil Waring, anticipating 5,000 sales a year for the new model, he admitted: “naming, or numbering the car is very important and we need a decision by the end of the year because it goes on sale next September.”

British management are bemused as to why the parent company only notified its European importers of the superstitious element in numbering the car within the past week.

Waring has commissioned “urgent market research” in the UK to see if the public would accept either 5 or 7 as a substitute, and not automatically confuse it with the MX-5 roadster and discontinued RX-7 rotary sports car.

The number 4 was nominated because it fitted into the range sequence, which runs 2, 3 and 6. Mazda is not new to naming or numbering controversy. In the early ’80s the Montrose coupe was launched on the day that the company sacked its dealer, in Montrose.

TV road test family give show the green light

A local family has given the all-new motor show a huge thumbs-up.

The five strong Hale family from Shirley, Solihull tested out the new interactive features on behalf of ITV motoring show Pulling Power.

Mum and Dad Linda and David and their three daughters Kelly (16), Rosie (11) and Emily (9) got a sneak preview of the show and the interactive features before the event officially opens to the public on Thursday 27 May.

Mum Linda thoroughly enjoyed her spin on the 4×4 Experience, especially The Edge, a 30 ft high metal construction with a 39 degree incline and decline. She said, “When you approach the practically vertical ramp, you wonder how you are going to get up it. It really took my breath away – all you see is sky!”

There were plenty of other opportunities for the family to get interactive. Eldest daughter Kelly, who’s buzzing to learn to drive, jumped at the opportunity to get started at the BSM Driving School and was praised by her instructor Matt Robinson.

Dad David was strapped in and taken on a thrill-a-second course at the Caterham Experience and youngsters Rosie and Emily were in no doubt that the Motoropolis Live Action Arena was their favourite part of the show.

The whole family left the NEC with a new outlook on the motor show. Mum Linda said, “I thought it was a thoroughly good day out and will have no problem recommending it to friends with families.”

The Hale’s adventures at the NEC will be screened on Pulling Power on ITV1 at 11.05pm on Thursday 27 May.

Sports car makers shake up dealer networks

TVR has fired six dealers over the past 18 months while fellow specialist sports car maker Noble has scrapped its retail network.

The two companies, which between them sell about 1,270 new cars, have underlined the volatile business of representing sports car franchises.

Peter Wheeler, chairman of Blackpool-based TVR, said: “We are currently gently recruiting dealers. We fired the six franchise holders because they were not suitable. There’s a cycle where you lose their enthusiasm and friendship over the years. It’s better to part company after winding each other up.”

TVR’s dealer strength currently stands at 18 and Wheeler plans to hire another six. He admitted that filling open points depended on: “how far owners are willing to travel for service and back up.”

Wheeler said TVR was “constantly considering” a return to the North American market but it would involve doubling the size of the company and establishing an assembly operation in the USA.

He said: “We would go west if someone comes up with a sensible plan, including a fairly substantial facility, probably a kit-building operation. It is an issue to have people who really know the cars and take care of them and the customers properly. The company fell foul of being in the US 20 years ago.”

Wheeler claimed the US market would generate another 1,000 sales, doubling present volume.

Meanwhile Noble, based in Barwell, near Hinckly, Leicestershire, has terminated the ten dealers contracts, which it claims has allowed the firm to cut its prices.

Noble spokesman Simon Hucknall said: “The dealers will continue as authorised servicing outlets, but will not sell new cars. We want tighter control of quality of sales and customer treatment.”

The company is establishing three sales centres in northern England, Leicestershire and south-east England.

Hucknall admitted: “Dealers take a large margin and by eliminating that cut we have reduced the price of two of our cars.”

This translates into the twin turbo 3-litre V6 M400 coming down £6,000 from £61,995 to £55,995 while the 3R’s price has been reduced by £2,505 to £49,995.

Noble sells around 270 cars a year, the vast majority are bought by UK customers although its Cincinnati, Ohio distributor believes there is a potential for 70 units.

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