Speech by Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon to the SMMT International Automotive Summit

13 June 2013 #SMMT News

I’d like to thank the SMMT for inviting me to speak here today at your fifth International Summit. I notice that is has become a bit of a tradition for Business Ministers to speak at this event. I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to become part of that tradition.

The UK automotive industry is currently going from strength to strength. Car production increased 9% last year and over 80% of them were exported. Last year, the value of car exports exceeded the value of car imports for the first time since 1976

We are also a major engine manufacturer – over 2.5 million in 2012. We have more than 40 companies manufacturing vehicles in the UK as well as a world class automotive design engineering sector. And we have some of the most productive plants in Europe.

The strength of the industry in the UK has been endorsed by over £6 billion of investment by global companies over the last two years. The challenge now is to embed and build on that success.

That is why I want to talk today about the work of the Automotive Council. I also want to touch on the opportunities in international trade and talk about better regulation.

The Automotive Council has been a partner with Government in developing the Automotive Industrial Strategy that will be published in July. This will identify the challenges that must be tackled to ensure the industry’s current success continues and will set out the action that Government and the industry commit to each other to do together.

I have been impressed by the quality of the work of the Automotive Council and its sub groups on the Supply Chain and on Technology. I have also been impressed by the support and the commitment of the industry members of the Council and sub groups.

The Supply Chain group has published two reports focussed on identifying potential new supply chain business opportunities for UK based companies. It estimates that there are £ 3 billion per annum worth of opportunities out there.

Building on the opportunities identified in the Reports and increasing supply chain investment will be a key aim of the new Automotive Investment Organisation (AIO). And, I am delighted to say that it will be led by Joe Greenwell. As the former chair of a global automotive company, Joe brings all the experience that the new Automotive Investment Organisation needs. He will help to build on the success of the unprecedented wave of investment we have seen in the UK automotive sector and encourage a more extensive supply chain.

That’s been a priority for me. I have attended a number of supply chain events and roundtables here in London, Milan, Japan and most recently the US, highlighting UK supply chain projects and inward investment opportunities. I am looking forward to the next UKTI event at the Oval on the 10th of July. JLR, JCB, Nissan, Toyota, Ford, GM, Bentley & BMW are all involved and 22 supply chain companies have already registered. I will also be making suppliers the focus of my visit to the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

The Technology Group is finalising its five technology road maps which have been key to informing the development of our Automotive Industrial Strategy, and made the case for the Energy Storage R&D Centre which I announced last Autumn. This was for the advancement of electric and hybrid vehicle battery technology to capitalise on the estimated market worth £250 million for the UK by 2020. That’s a project co-funded by Government (£9 million) and industry (£4 million) and work is well under way to install the scale up line at the high value manufacturing Catapult at Warwick Manufacturing Group.

We remain committed to supporting the early development of a market for ultra low emission vehicles through the work of the Office for Low Emission Vehicles – OLEV. We are determined to create the right conditions and the infrastructure for the development of an early market for ULEVs. It’s still very new, but it is progressing steadily with significant year upon year increases in consumer take-up. Claims in 2012 for our plug-in car grant were two and a half times higher than the year before. But there is more to do there and Norman Baker and I, as Ministers responsible for OLEV, will set this out when we publish a new Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Strategy this summer.

The number and quality of successful automotive bids to the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) and the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) has also been impressive. Those two funding streams are part of my portfolio. £316 million is supporting 55 projects in the automotive sector under the first three rounds of the RGF, including JLR, Aston Martin, Ricardo and NSK Bearings.

Eleven automotive projects were selected under Rounds 1 and 2 of AMSCI, with a total public and private investment of over £100m. They will create and safeguard over 4,500 jobs and involve more than 80 automotive companies, universities and research institutions.

In Round 3 we have already received 26 bids including seven bids with a strong automotive element. That response to Round 3 shows that AMSCI remains a popular fund. If you haven’t submitted an application in Round 3, you still have the opportunity to apply in Round 4. The competition is already open on the TSB website.

This is what we’ve been doing to help embed the success of the industry here at home. But the industry is global and internationally integrated.

The Government is committed to a free trade agenda. Increasing international trade is key to delivering economic growth in the UK. So now, more than ever, we are working to open markets which are truly free and fair. That is why we are committed to an EU Free Trade Agreement with Japan that will address their non tariff barriers (NTBs) which currently restrict market access. We will continue to push hard for meaningful liberalisation of the Japanese automotive market in the negotiations. I have made that clear to my counterparts in the Japanese Government.

Achieving an EU/US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a top Government priority, We are leading the way in arguing for a comprehensive agreement that will maximise the opportunities, that has huge potential, bringing major benefits to the UK automotive industry.

Kenneth Clarke, Vince Cable and I had a very useful meeting with a wide range of UK automotive companies to discuss TTIP on Monday. I was impressed how the sector is collaborating with US colleagues to work up ideas on what these trade negotiations could deliver on regulatory convergence. It is vital that the sector continues to work for an ambitious agreement. Trade talks are always tough – your championing a deal will help maintain the momentum needed.

While over half our car exports now go to countries outside the EU, the EU still remains an important market. Germany, obviously, is still the largest single market for UK automotive exports. Given the current state of that market it is gratifying that export levels remain as strong as they do.

However the market for new cars in the EU is very challenging and that impacts on the competitiveness on the European industry as a whole. That’s where we believe the European Commission and Member States must act to provide a framework for a competitive and sustainable automotive industry in Europe.

That is why we support the European Commission’s CARS 2020 Action Plan and why we’re an active member of the High Level Group that monitors its progress. For me, one of the key commitments of the Action Plan is better regulation. I will be looking to see that the European Commission follows through on its commitments to back up proposals with in-depth impact assessments and competitiveness proofing to determine the effects of any new measures on the automotive industry.

Better regulation is at the heart of our approach to the EU policy agenda more widely. In particular how we get EU economies growing again. The Prime Minister consistently raises the need to cut back unnecessary EU red tape with other EU heads of government. He has now secured agreement to press the European Commission to act on this.

We are tackling unnecessary burdens imposed by EU laws in three key ways:

Firstly, we are working to influence EU policy at the earliest stages of its development. This ensures that we have the best possible chance to minimise costs and maximise benefits.

Secondly, we are holding the Commission to account on its commitment to reduce regulatory burdens on SMEs. I regularly meet senior figures in the Commission, and Members of the European Parliament, to press upon them that businesses want is an end to unnecessary EU regulation. We are beginning to see some results. Over the past year, about a third of all Commission legislative proposals have included exemptions and lighter regimes for small businesses. That looks like a positive shift in Commission thinking.

And thirdly, we’re committed to ending the gold-plating of EU legislation. I recently reviewed our efforts and since the Coalition, so far I have found no evidence of gold-plating that places additional burdens on UK business.

So, to conclude, we are working to open trade with third markets and improve the regulatory framework and competitiveness in Europe. At home, the Automotive Council is the key driver for strengthening the sustainability of the sector in the UK and the Automotive Industrial Strategy will set out its future workplan.

I do hope you will read the whole of Automotive Industrial Strategy when it is published. There will be important and significant announcements that will capture headlines. Look beyond the headlines and you will see the in-depth work that we are doing with the Automotive Council on a range of issues to ensure the continued success of the automotive industry in the UK.

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