CEO Update

A long-term approach will provide the boost industry needs

25 October 2019 #CEO Update

The government announced initial plans this week for electric vehicles to get green number plates, or some similar marker of their zero emission status. Ideas that promote the take-up of these new technologies are to be welcomed, and the fact that consideration is being given to how that might be delivered is positive.

We need more, though – manufacturers are investing vast sums to bring zero emission cars and vans to market. Increasing consumer awareness will help but to encourage the uptake of these vehicles to truly meaningful numbers, we need world-class support.

Such measures should include a long-term commitment from government to fiscal and other financial incentives and substantial investment in infrastructure. The range of zero and ultra low emission vehicles is increasing rapidly – every month brings further announcements of new cars being brought to market – so that all drivers will have a vehicle that meets their needs.

All areas of the automotive market benefit from long-term policy making. Just as we need certainty on ULEVs, we also need it on Brexit, with the situation still up in the air and industry suffering. We urgently need politicians on all sides to agree and implement a deal – but one that safeguards our relationship with our biggest market, the European Union, maintaining free and frictionless trade.

If Brexit is to be delayed, which at this point looks likely, then potential US trade restrictions become the next most immediate threat to UK Automotive. President Trump is expected to announce his decision imminently on whether or not to apply Section 232 tariffs to European-built cars being sent to the USA.

The country was the UK’s second biggest vehicle export market in 2018, after the European Union, and UK-US automotive trade is worth over £10 billion, representing 18% of the UK’s exports. We were able to raise industry’s concerns over Section 232 tariffs during our recent visit to Washington, and we hope that our two countries can continue to build on our historic collaboration post-Brexit.

The damage that the imposition of tariffs would do in the short term – to the industry on both sides of the Atlantic – would be significant, so every effort should be made by all sides to avoid further pain for the sector.

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