CEO Update

Ambitious trade agenda needed to avoid industry decline

19 June 2020 #CEO Update

During a week of high-level political negotiations, the Prime Minister and his EU counterparts have agreed to accelerate negotiations on a future trading relationship, injecting a renewed momentum into the talks. Securing a comprehensive trade deal by 31 December that delivers zero tariffs from day one and creates a new framework for regulatory cooperation and dialogue is imperative for the automotive industry.

With the sector severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis, the renewed commitment to progress talks is a welcome step forwards; we must prevent any further damage to the industry that would result from a no deal Brexit.

The Prime Minister also yesterday signalled the start of free trade negotiations with Australia, the sixth biggest export market for UK built cars shipped overseas in 2019, and New Zealand. Whilst this is a welcome development, the UK’s ambitious trade agenda must deliver not just on these two countries and the EU, but also Turkey, Japan and the replication of all other existing preferential agreements as a necessity.

The government also announced plans this week for owners of zero emission vehicles to be able to fit them with green number plates. Manufacturers are continuing to invest vast sums to produce these vehicles in greater numbers and give consumers choice, so any initiatives that help boost their popularity are encouraged.

Market transformation, however, will take more than a single measure and, as SMMT continues to argue, a world-class package of long-term incentives to drive affordability, including support for stepping stone technologies such as plug in hybrids, will be required. The government will also need to increase their commitment to zero emissions with significant investment in charging infrastructure.

We will be addressing what is needed to accelerate ULEV adoption at SMMT’s International Automotive Summit 2020 next week, along with discussions on how to scale up manufacturing and international trade so we move into the recovery phase.

The event, which is live online on Tuesday 23 June, features an exciting line up of speakers and panels, with industry keynotes from Dr Christian Dahlheim, Volkswagen AG; Adrian Hallmark, Bentley Motors; and Dr Graham Hoare OBE, Ford of Britain. Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister for Business and Industry, and Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Minister for Business and Consumers will be providing political keynotes.

Registration closes today, is free for all SMMT members this year and you can sign up here. Have a good weekend and I hope you will join us next week.