- UK automotive sector calls for decisive action on infrastructure and competitiveness as it counts the cost of a second year of Covid impacts
- Significant challenges remain, from semiconductor shortages to charge point availability.
- Industry and government collaboration key to future sector and market competitiveness.
As the automotive sector accelerates the introduction of zero-emission vehicles, despite supply shortages, the industry calls for a redoubling of efforts to improve charging infrastructure and enhance UK competitiveness. A third of British made cars are now electrified, with more plug-in vehicles expected to be registered this year than in the last decade combined. However, if the sector – and society – is to achieve net zero on the back of British manufacturing, then some key challenges must be met.
Speaking at the 104th SMMT Annual Dinner, SMMT President and Executive Chairman HORIBA MIRA Dr George Gillespie OBE, at the 104th SMMT Annual Dinner said,
We have invested billions in designing some of the most amazing electrified vehicles – over 115 zero emission capable vehicle models are for sale in the UK right now. We have inspired the public to buy these exciting vehicles in numbers never seen before, but here is the twist. It is so frustrating to find broken chargers, blocked chargers, multiple apps, confusing payment schemes. This is quickly going to turn a lot of people off electric vehicles and all our work in developing these fantastic vehicles will be wasted.
Manufacturers are firmly committed to decarbonise cars and vans by 2035 but significant challenges remain. The global shortage of semiconductors is decimating production output and leading to delays in customer deliveries. The UK manufacturing sector is also hindered by high energy prices, uncompetitive business rates and additional trade costs compared to its competitors in Europe and beyond. Long term strategies are needed to address these deficiencies, and close collaboration between industry and government will be critical if the industry is to remain internationally competitive. Given that automotive manufacturing produces Britain’s most valuable export good and employs some 180,000 people in highly skilled, well paid jobs across the country, the importance of retaining this sector is obvious.
Dr Gillespie continued,
We need access to skilled staff. We need free access to markets. We need the right government incentives to develop new technologies and continue to lead the world and help to deal with rising transport and energy costs.
One of the major advantages of the UK is the size of its new car and van market – the second-largest in Europe – and the fact that UK consumers embrace new technology. A vibrant and healthy new car and vehicle market is essential as it creates and sustains jobs, delivers enormous receipts to Government and is essential to the achievement of Britain’s net zero target. It is essential we maintain this strong market as we transition to new types of mobility, but the infrastructure to power this transition is not keeping pace.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said,
This industry does ‘delivery’. We will decarbonise road transport – cars by 2035, buses likely earlier, HGVs likely only a bit later. But as EV sales race ahead, on-street charging infrastructure is increasing slowly. We look to government to create the conditions – maybe mandate the conditions – to accelerate the infrastructure across the country as we need others to match our speed.
The 104th SMMT Annual dinner was held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London and attended by senior industry executives, media and other stakeholder representatives including Government.