CEO Update

Why manufacturing cannot be left to grind to a halt

23 July 2021 #CEO Update

Despite the coronavirus restrictions across the UK lifting on Monday, like many other sectors across the economy, automotive manufacturers, suppliers and services are being impacted by the growing number of coronavirus cases.

The industry has taken every step to make premises Covid safe, but with transmissions rising outside the workplace, and self-isolation rules preventing staff from working, staff shortages are putting production at risk and undermining the sector’s recovery.

Urgent action is needed to mitigate this impact, such as bringing forward the 16 August target date for exempting fully vaccinated adults from self-isolation. Furthermore, we need clear guidance for how this will operate in practice, before the activation date, so that businesses can make the necessary preparations. We are talking to Government daily about these issues as the impact is becoming severe and, like many other sectors, affecting not just business but consumers and the broader society.

Keeping production lines running is crucial for the industry, including for the UK’s unique low volume and specialist and vehicle makers. SMMT’s Low Volume and Specialist Vehicle Manufacturers report released this week sets out how the UK sector makes the most diverse range of products anywhere in the world, from 250mph hypercars to wheelchair accessible taxis.

Together these firms turned over some £4 billion last year, employing more than 15,000 people in high-skilled and well-paid roles and producing over 28,000 cutting edge products, even in light of the global pandemic. With these companies transitioning at pace to a zero-emission future it is crucial that the diverse nature of this critical sector is protected.

Fundamental to the competitiveness of this industry is the need to ensure any regulation is appropriate and reflects the unique circumstances of manufacturers. This is particularly important as we negotiate new trade terms with key overseas markets, many of whom would look on enviously at our strengths in this sector. Furthermore, given the technological transition underway, these companies, like the rest of the industry, need specific support for workforce retraining and reskilling to ensure they are fit for the future.

In other news, the government published its Innovation Strategy on Thursday with the aim of cementing the UK’s position as a world-leader in science, research and innovation. This should provide welcome support and framework for R&D and innovation for UK Automotive as the sector progresses along the Road to Zero. However, with the speed of technological change accelerating, and competition more ferocious, this must come as part of a wider competitiveness package for automotive to ensure that the electric vehicles of the future are “Made in Britain.”

Finally, as the temperatures soared this week, so to do the numbers of Britons looking to enjoy a summer staycation, many of which involve towing a trailer or a caravan. SMMT has released its tenth edition of the Trailer Towing Guidance and the Law guide – a must-have for first-time towers as well as experienced users as it contains the latest legislation and information needed for a safe Summer trip. For more information visit the website.

Update Newsletter