CEO Update

The devil’s in the detail

13 July 2018 #CEO Update

A busy week in politics began with upheaval in the cabinet, moved through the publication of Government’s blueprint for the UK’s future relationship with the EU and ends with President Trump’s visit to the UK and his own views on Brexit and Boris. Given this maelstrom (not to mention England’s long awaited appearance in the World Cup semis), you might be forgiven for missing the publication of Government’s much anticipated Road to Zero strategy.

Setting out plans to position the UK as a leader in the design, manufacture and adoption of zero emission vehicles, the strategy contains much that our industry can get behind. Already the UK is home to Europe’s biggest market for plug-in cars, and we are investing billions to develop new technologies that will drive the transition to zero emission transport.

Government’s commitment to a technology neutral approach is particularly welcome. With no clear technological winner yet to emerge, recognition that industry and consumers are best placed to determine the technology – or technologies – that will get us to zero is an important step. Equally crucial is the explicit understanding that internal combustion engines, including diesel, will continue to have a fundamental role to play in the years ahead.

Industry does, however, have significant concerns about some elements of the strategy, not least the ambitions for the number of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) on the road by 2030 – ambitions that go far beyond the already high level of expectation proposed by the European Commission. Achieving 50%+ market share would require a near 23-fold increase in uptake from the current position of just 2.2%. These new technologies, and the lengthy investment required to deliver them, cannot be fast-tracked.

Skip forward three days and Thursday’s publication of Government’s long-awaited White Paper on Brexit was also closely scrutinised by industry. On the whole, its proposals are a welcome step forward in replicating the benefits of the single market and customs union – essential if we are to safeguard our competitiveness, investment and jobs.

Both the Brexit White Paper and Road to Zero strategy are evidence that Ministers have been listening and recognise the importance of our sector. On both issues, we are committed to continuing our close work with government and all relevant stakeholders to study the detail and ensure they deliver – anything less and we risk slowing our progress at a time when others are quickening.

Mike Hawes, chief executive, SMMT