UK commercial vehicle manufacturing experienced a turbulent year in 2019, with production falling by 7.8% and output for overseas markets down 8.4%.
On the surface, the annual full-year manufacturing figures released by SMMT yesterday, paint a gloomy picture of decline.
But, says Nigel Base, the organisation’s commercial vehicle manager, dig a little deeper and there’s great reason for optimism and potential in the year ahead: “Britain remains a great global centre for the commercial vehicle sector and the future looks promising.
“It’s not just about vehicle manufacturers, it’s also about design and engineering too. We have some great minds and incredible talent in the UK and that’s a real strength.
“We’re making some cutting-edge products here that are very popular internationally and are shipped all over the world.”
Base adds, “In addition, 2020 will be a great time for businesses and fleets to buy new commercial vehicles. There’s an awful lot of choice out there, lots of offers available and the vehicles themselves are cleaner and more efficient than they’ve ever been.”
But looking back to the past year, what were the reasons for the declining numbers. Was it all to do with Brexit?
“Clearly we do now have a measure of political stability and the lack of clarity over our exit from the EU did have a significant impact on confidence and in turn on demand and output, however, there were other major factors at play, namely key model changes, regulatory issues and the impact of WLTP. Model changeovers and variable fleet patterns are a large reason for the turbulence experience in CV production this year”, explains Base.
“As an example, we had a major new model production change over at the manufacturer responsible for the vast majority of CV output in the UK and that had a real impact on the figures.
“This year though, that manufacturer will be well into its new product cycle and that should have a positive effect of overall numbers.”
What then does SMMT want to see from the government in the year ahead?
“We’re looking for measures to support the entire automotive industry in the UK,@ sayd Base, “and we want to see efforts focused on securing our future trading relationships overseas because most of what we make is exported.
“We want to work closely with the government to deliver an ambitious, zero-tarriff free trade agreement and will offer all support necessary to achieve this.”
Indeed, 2020 looks to be a year of substantial transformation for the commercial vehicle sector, with ample opportunities ahead. Continued investment in new technologies and the growth of newcomers, including Arrival and LEVC (London Electric Vehicle Company), underline the potential of an established and nimble commercial vehicle sector.