CEO Update

Electrified vehicles spark choice at SMMT Test Day

26 May 2023 #CEO Update

Blue skies and sunshine bathed the industry this week as a record 358 journalists flocked to SMMT’s annual Test Day at Millbrook Proving Ground to put an impressive line-up of the latest cars, vans and trucks from more than 40 brands through their paces.

More than half the vehicle line-up came with a plug and perfectly encapsulated the industry’s massive investment in electrification and the growing choice of vehicles now available to British motorists. Indeed, one in four models on the market now features a purely electric powertrain, with every segment, from city runarounds to multipurpose people carriers and everything in between, offering at least one zero emission option.

Drivers making the switch to an EV are now able to do so with growing confidence thanks to continually evolving technology meaning the average battery range is now more than 230 miles. That’s set to increase to 300 this year as new models come on stream – three times the weekly average distance driven by motorists.

These are promising figures but we must accelerate the uptake of these vehicles, removing all barriers to uptake and ensuring all drivers benefit from the electric switch – regardless of their location. This must be matched by an affordable choice of reliable charging options, with binding rollout targets that are in line with EV sales due to be dictated by the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate.

The rapid shift to these new technologies was also played out in UK automotive manufacturing this week as SMMT’s latest figures showed production of electrified cars rose by more than half in April to make up a third of output. This helped to drive up overall production volumes, with April marking the sector’s third consecutive month of growth. Commercial vehicle production, meanwhile, gave more reason for optimism that the chip shortage is finally easing, posting its best April performance in more than a decade.

The figures also throw into sharp relief the importance of free and frictionless trade to UK automotive manufacturing, with eight in 10 cars and seven in 10 commercial vehicles built here shipped overseas. The fact that exported EV volumes are growing – with the majority heading to markets in the EU – highlights the urgent need to find a workable solution to the imminent rules of origin challenges that face manufacturers on both sides of the channel. Unless common sense prevails, we risk the application of tariffs, unnecessarily adding additional cost to the very vehicles we are encouraging consumers to purchase.

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