This week’s return of Automechanika Frankfurt, fully in person again after four years, was a welcome chance to meet some familiar faces in the aftermarket sector and provided the opportunity for SMMT to lead its largest overseas trade mission since the pandemic began. A dedicated UK pavilion included 22 leading aftermarket companies representing the breadth and quality that the British sector has to offer, from engine remanufacturing and suspension system design services to specialist components, lubricants and tyre sealants.
In-person international events such as this are crucial to new business opportunities and for exhibitors to generate positive leads, which should help to stand them in good stead amid the tough economic environment and pace of technological change facing the industry.
As with the wider automotive sector, the aftermarket is set to undergo a massive transition driven by the shift to zero emission mobility, which presents new opportunities for many companies that must simultaneously help service and repair the millions of conventional vehicles on our roads.
The UK is a key European market for this important sector: the aftermarket industry contributes over £12.7 billion to the economy and supports 350,000 jobs across 54,000 businesses, with a turnover of some £50 billion every year. Moreover, the rapid uptake of ultra-low and zero emission vehicles in Britain gives the UK aftermarket an early advantage, and the sector has invested heavily in apprentices to ensure it has a skilled workforce that can service the latest zero emission automotive technology and meet the growing expectations of international customers.
Investment in the people who make up the automotive industry, not just in the aftermarket, is absolutely critical if we are to stay competitive, and the Automotive Council’s first report into diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in the UK automotive industry, launched last week, begins by highlighting the issue of gender underrepresentation in the automotive workforce.
While many automotive companies have programmes that are helping, given this is such a critical social issue – and competitiveness issue – a huge amount still needs to be done before the sector is truly reflective of the communities in which it is located and the society it serves.