Three hundred delegates from across the UK automotive industry came together this week at SMMT’s autumn Open Forum event in Solihull to discuss challenges and opportunities for the sector in the wake of the EU Referendum result.
Representatives from vehicle manufacturers and supply chain companies heard from Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, who outlined the industry’s recent successes, and priorities for the future.
“We enter this period in good health, with car manufacturing figures up, record registrations and a 16 year high for productivity,” he said. “Assurances given by government recently should provide comfort to UK Automotive, but maintaining our competitiveness is key. That’s why we need a competitive business environment, the ability to recruit talent from abroad and the continuation of all the benefits of the single market as we leave the EU.”
Other industry leaders echoed these points, stressing the importance of the supply chain in maintaining growth and prosperity. “With many new vehicles being manufactured in the UK it should enable supply chain businesses to return to the UK,” said Ian Henry, Director at Auto Analysis, “… going forward we need suppliers that can underpin electric vehicle production.”
Illustrating the significant investment made by Jaguar Land Rover in its British operations, the company’s Supply Chain & External Engagement Manager Mike Mychajluk said, “Our heart remains in the UK. We have a firm base here, with two major R&D centres in the country and we want to see the local supply chain grow. But, to help do this we need to focus on skills – it is crucial for the future.”
Jim Griffin, CEO of Autins Group, which this summer became a listed company, provided his positive perspective on securing future growth, “Every company should innovate, invest, diversify and change momentum – don’t look backwards,” he said. “It’s too easy to say that we don’t manufacture anything here anymore, but we do… no matter what happens we will still keep making cars, buses trucks and more.”
Last to speak was Chris Owen, Chief Executive of SMMT Industry Forum, who urged suppliers to look at opportunities in other, adjacent sectors to automotive. “Look sideways into rail and aerospace to grow your business. Plenty automotive suppliers can work across sectors. But make clear on what basis you choose to compete… you need to make the right products to remain competitive,” he said.
The event closed with a pertinent question for the audience – what can be done to increase the content of UK made components in UK-built vehicles? Look at the strategies of vehicle manufacturers, partner with them and don’t be afraid to work with competitors were just some of the suggestions given.
SMMT’s next Open Forum event will take place on 6 June 2017 at Automechanika Birmingham, NEC. More information on how to register will be available in the New Year.