CEO Update

EVs electrify markets as apprentices drive the future

10 February 2023 #CEO Update

The industry dealt with an array of challenges in 2022, so it’s only right that we begin this year with positive news. In January the new car market recorded six months of growth and the best start to a year since before the pandemic. Not surprisingly, electric vehicles played an important part – accounting for one in five new registrations. Meanwhile, the light commercial vehicle sector also enjoyed a boost, posting its first monthly uplift since September 2022, with a similarly positive EV story as deliveries rose to record levels.

Meanwhile, performance in the used car sector made clear just how vital a healthy new vehicle market is for fleet renewal, as our latest figures show sales fell -8.5% in 2022, reflecting the long-term squeeze on new vehicle supply. A welcome return to growth in December after nine months of decline, however, signposts improving stock levels. EVs also provided a bright spot, with a record number of used models finding new owners.

To accelerate this demand, we must address the most significant barrier to mass market EV uptake – charging anxiety. Our latest analysis shows that chargepoint rollout is still failing to keep pace, with only one standard public charger installed for every 53 new plug-in cars registered in 2022 – the weakest ratio since 2020. This is an issue of confidence and we need government, local authorities, chargepoint companies and energy firms to all ramp up investment. Mandating rollout targets for infrastructure and regulating service standards are obvious solutions – giving drivers certainty that a working charger is always available.

Of course, the industry’s transition to zero emissions is dependent on market and industrial transformation – and that requires not just massive investment from industry, but a focused strategy from government to attract and enable that investment. Driving down energy costs, reforming business rates and incentivising capital investment will be key, and so will support to upskill, reskill and attract the people needed to drive this once-in-a-century transition.

Our workforce is at the heart of this revolution as demonstrated at SMMT’s National Apprenticeship Week Showcase on Monday, held to recognise the contribution made by apprentices to the industry. We were pleased to be joined by Matt Western MP to welcome 35 apprentices and their employers from across the sector – the list is long – along with parliamentarians and other key skills-focused stakeholders. Our thanks go to Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Caterpillar, Cummins, DAF Trucks, GKN, Halfords, Iveco, Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren, Rolls Royce, and Scania for supporting this important event.

Finally this week, and further evidence of the wealth of talented people shaping the industry’s future, nominations have opened for the 2023 Autocar Great Women Rising Stars awards. SMMT is once again proud to partner with Autocar for this inspiring initiative and I encourage you to nominate yourself or someone else here before entries close on 21 April.

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