Japanese auto makers” 20 year boost for Europe

05 July 2006 #SMMT News

In the two decades since car making began, Japanese firms have invested 14.8 billion euro in Europe. Six billion of that has come to the UK, home to plants owned by Nissan, Honda and Toyota and employing thousands of British workers.

To celebrate that landmark, Japanese car makers hosted a reception in Brussels, attended by Mr Fujio Cho, Vice Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation and chairman of trade body JAMA. In an address to guests, Mr Cho highlighted the importance of 17 production facilities throughout Europe making 1.37 million vehicles last year alone. But he also made clear the role to be played by the Japanese in helping shape a competitive European regulatory framework, including support for conclusions in the CARS21 report.

Mark Gibson, director general of the business group at the UK DTI, spoke of the importance of Japanese operations to Britain’s economy. In particular he highlighted the role played by SMMT Industry Forum in boosting productivity across the sector. Skills taught by Japanese engineers on the shop floor had helped boost productivity and cut waste in firms across the supply chain, he said, adding that, the programme had been so successful its principles had been exported to other sectors.

2006 is a far cry from the eighties when the role of the Japanese was dismissed by some commentators as ‘spanner operations’. Since then investment in car making, the supply chain and R&D has proved the cynics wrong.

Today, the backbone of car making in the UK comes from three Japanese manufacturers, producing half of all the cars made here. This includes models like the Nissan Micra, a testament to the Japanese approach. Arguably one of the most British cars on the road, the Micra was designed at Nissan’s studios in London, engineered in its Cranfield technical centre and built at the Sunderland plant.

And the plant is the most productive in Europe, proving that British workers can cut it with the best in the world.

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