It has been a busy week at SMMT with the annual International Automotive Summit taking place on Tuesday, with more than 500 guests attending either physically or virtually. The event brought together industry leaders, government, political figures, media and other stakeholders in a series of keynote speeches, alongside a host of panels on competitiveness, skills, digitalisation and the future of automotive.
The wider industry has also had a significant announcement with Nissan and Envision AESC announcing that they will be expanding battery production and model investment at their facilities in Sunderland. This is hugely encouraging bringing with it a boost to the local and national economy and creating jobs in the process. While this is good news, however, it is only a step towards what the UK industry needs as it progresses towards Net Zero. Having had the shadow of Brexit hanging over the industry for five years, investment has been difficult. That shadow was lifted by the signing of the TCA which has provisions in it that are beneficial to the sector, but we are now playing catch up with competitor locations in Europe whose automotive sectors have not had that half a decade of uncertainty.
The International Summit saw the launch of SMMT’s latest report ‘Full Throttle: Driving UK Automotive Competitiveness’, which set out a roadmap to improve UK competitiveness and assure its future success. Amongst the proposals was the requirement for binding Government target of 60 GWh of gigafactory capacity by 2030 – essential if the UK is to become a manufacturing hub for electric vehicles and becapable of producing up to one million electric vehicles a year. These gigafactories would also ensure tariff-free access to critical markets in the EU and possibly beyond and ensuring this electrified transformation is ‘Made in Britain’.
The report also seeks the creation of a Build Back Better Fund to support advanced manufacturing, funding production line transformation, skills retraining and energy cost relief in order to keep the UK competitive. Furthermore, we need a holistic infrastructure strategy that recognises the needs of the consumer. This must include the installation of 2.3 million charging points by 2030 – particularly on-street charge points – to ensure less affluent drivers and less prosperous areas are not left behind.
With the necessary competitive conditions, which have been put forward in this report, the UK’s automotive industry can add up to 40,000 jobs across the country helping to level up regions outside of London and the South-East. As we said this week, “Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job.”
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our sponsors and speakers at the Summit, the SMMT staff and Seventy Events who made the event possible, and the events key partners Associated British Ports, Auto Trader UK, Clarke Energy, iOffset, KPMG UK, High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Institute of Digital Engineering (IDE) and WMG Business for their support.