CEO Update

UK vans are essential to a thriving economy

03 May 2019 #CEO Update

This week we launched our new Van Report at CV Show 2019 in Birmingham. The report highlights the importance of the UK’s light commercial vehicles not just to our economy but to the one in 10 of UK workers who depends on them for a living.

Vans are the backbone of our society, run by sole traders or SMEs, as well as larger fleets all contributing billions to the economy. Customer needs are constantly changing and the industry is responding, delivering the cleanest and safest vehicles in history and developing new features as societal trends – such as online shopping – emerge and set new requirements for the commercial vehicle sector.

To continue to thrive, however, this vital sector needs policies and incentives that encourage businesses to invest; to purchase the latest technologies that best suit their needs to help deliver for Britain. The production figures we released this week show that, for all the growth in the commercial vehicle market, there is underlying turbulence and uncertainty – not least with Brexit.

While the October extension to the Brexit deadline was welcome, the clock is still ticking and ‘no deal’ remains a real threat. The extra negotiating time might be useful for Westminster, but it doesn’t stop the havoc in industry, with investment stopped and expensive factory shutdowns moved.

Just a few years ago, industry was on track to produce two million cars by 2020 – a target now impossible with Britain’s reputation as a stable and attractive business environment sorely undermined. All parties must find a compromise urgently so we can set about repairing the damage and diverting energy and investment to the technological challenges that will define the future of the global industry.

Chief among those challenges will be the environment. The industry is, of course, committed to a zero emission future and billions have already been invested in developing cutting edge technology to help us realise that vision. What vehicle manufacturers can’t dictate, however, is the pace of demand, and that’s where government needs to work with all stakeholders to address buyer concerns and other obstacles – notably infrastructure.

This week’s Committee on Climate Change report sets out a bold ambition but, as it makes clear, it is the responsibility of all sectors to contribute to this ambition and for government to implement supportive not punitive polices. This means for all vehicles – including the vans on which we depend.