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Five pledges to back the CV sector

29 June 2023 #TNB News

Given that the commercial vehicle sector is delivering and inspiring vehicle innovation – with ambitious trials such as automated buses, hydrogen delivery vans and portable battery charging solutions – it is only natural that Bus, Truck and LCV had a central role at this week’s International Automotive Summit. With the conference’s media briefing and keynote speeches delivered by Alexander Dennis and DHL Supply Chain UK, alongside speakers including LEVC, Volvo Trucks and Ford, our most important challenges and opportunities were heard loud and clear by an international audience from senior industry, government and the media.

One of the subjects that came up numerous times was Rules of Origin, with the UK and EU facing the risk of imposing increasingly strict tariffs on zero emission commercial vehicles (ZECV) starting from 1 January 2024, if the batteries don’t meet requirements for UK or EU sources of supply as stated in the UK-EU TCA. The event heard from Kemi Badenoch MP, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, who indicated that government is engaging with the EU to push back the deadline and provide certainty to manufacturers on both sides of the Channel.

The need for beneficial trading relationships – that encourage rather than hamper the viability of the ZECV manufacturing – is one of a number of critical competitiveness issues highlighted in SMMT’s new “Manifesto 2030: Automotive Growth for a Zero Emission Future”, which sets out the wider UK automotive industry’s five priorities for political parties and their industrial strategies, as we move towards a general election in 18 months’ time.

The broadest of the five pledges is to plan for a Green Automotive Transformation Strategy that can attract investment in UK manufacturing and clean technologies, as the UK cannot be left behind, with the US and EU already having committed large budgets for those purposes.

Meanwhile, an electric charging and hydrogen refueling network is needed for all vehicle types, as SMMT set out in our HGV position paper in April. As we see more hydrogen commercial vehicles being developed and coming to market, the availability of hydrogen fuel and refueling stations becomes more important.

In order to deliver the transition for generations to come, Britain also needs to have a skilled workforce today while ensuring a stream of future talent, with a focus on STEM education in schools and a dynamic immigration system. Recruitment continues to be challenging and the skills required for us to transition will be diverse. Upskilling the current workforce will be important – but we need to encourage future generations to take up roles within the automotive industries.

Advanced manufacturing supply chains are another essential component. As Britain exports the majority of its commercial vehicle production, the need for tariff-free trade of vehicles, batteries and green technologies is vital. We are also calling for export support to allow all businesses of all sizes to succeed.

Finally, there is a clear need for lower energy costs so that the UK can compete with other countries to attract manufacturers to set up or extend their production here. There is a huge amount of international investment still to play for. We also need investment in future energy sources to provide certainty that costs will not fluctuate.

Time is of the essence and if all stakeholders can come together to commit and collaborate on these issues, the UK automotive industry and the CV sector will be in a very strong position – bringing with it significant benefits for the economy and society.

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