CEO Update

Rewriting the UK narrative for global investors

01 December 2023 #CEO Update

UK Automotive has entered a period of rapid and significant transformation, led by a mammoth £20 billion in private sector investment this year, an amount in excess of the combined total of the previous seven years. These figures, revealed at SMMT’s Annual Dinner this week, illustrate the commitment made by both government and industry to Britain’s automotive future as it faces the technological revolution of a century.

This is an industry that supports the livelihoods of close to a million people, so this investment is critical not just for those employed and connected to the sector but to the regions and communities they sustain. We now need to ensure there is a return on that investment, with demand to match. A strong EV market is a strong investment pull. We are an export-led sector so tariff-free trade is a fundamental necessity. Ensuring EU-UK Rules of Origin requirements are deferred is essential, otherwise we risk applying tariffs that will both throttle the trade of electric vehicles between the UK and EU, and pass the burden of additional costs onto motorists – discouraging adoption by the very people we need to make the switch.

Incentives for business buyers must be matched with support for private buyers. We have to give them a reason to convert, to stimulate private demand – now, not in eleven years’ time. The prize? Faster and fairer decarbonisation of Britain – ensuring millions have access to zero emission mobility.

So the future looks much more optimistic than it did barely a few months ago, and we are seeing vehicle production in the UK slowly recover, with October production figures for cars and commercial vehicles up 31.6% and 47.1% respectively. Given six out of 10 cars and nine out of 10 CVs exported are shipped to the EU, the importance of deferring those Rules of Origin on EVs is self-evident.

Looking further ahead, we must ensure we have the best and brightest people, reflecting all of the society we serve. So I was delighted to see the publication this week of the Automotive Council’s best practice guide, Shifting Gears: How to close the gender gap to drive business performance. SMMT, alongside the Council and its 27 Charter signatories, has committed the workforce to consist of a minimum of 30% women by 2030. Not only is this the right thing to do, it is good business. With more than 7% supply chain production vacancies and 5% OEM vacancies today, the need is obvious.

Lastly, I’d like to extend my appreciation to all those involved in our Annual Dinner this week, especially our sponsors – Active Tools, Automechanika, AutoTrader, Metro Shipping, Pinsent Masons, Rudolph & Hellmann Automotive and Snap-on Business Solutions – and our speakers Alison Jones, Senior Vice President Global Circular Economy, Stellantis; Nusrat Ghani MP, the Minister of State for Industry and Economic Security and Rt Hon Rory Stewart OBE.

It was also my pleasure to welcome SMMT’s 83rd president to post, Mick Flanagan, Vice President at Adient. We look forward to working with Mick and hope to utilise his wealth of industry experience which will be a huge asset. I would also like to thank outgoing President Alison Jones for her tireless commitment and invaluable support, championing our industry globally and helping to ensure the UK is a competitive destination for inward investment. She leaves a legacy on which SMMT will build.


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