2023 was a bumper year for UK commercial vehicle production following huge investment in new facilities and model line-ups, with some 120,357 vans, trucks, taxis, buses and coaches leaving factory lines, according to new SMMT figures published this week. The strong performance, 18.5% above the year before, means that volumes were at their highest level since 2010, with exports driving the bulk of the growth, as overseas deliveries rose by 25.8% to represent almost two thirds of production – another 13-year high. The EU again took pole position as the UK’s biggest global market, responsible for more than nine in 10 exports, followed by Australia and the US – emphasising the value of positive trading relationships with the bloc and indeed countries all over the world.
Major investments throughout last year are an important part of the success story, including the start of volume electric van production at Ellesmere Port, as well as a new distribution truck in Leyland and double decker buses in England and Scotland – all helping December to wrap up a successful 12 months. With robust uplifts in production for the domestic market too, more of the latest commercial vehicles flying the “made in Britain” flag are heading for our roads, and that is only a good thing.
However, with the transformation of manufacturing facilities to meet the demand for the zero emission market, we need firm orders to demonstrate the value of that investment. For the UK to continue to be a competitive place for investment, we need willingness from government to prioritise our sector, supporting the facilities that are seeking to switch their production to zero emission capabilities as well as facilitating a growing zero emission market for manufacturers that have already made the transition.
The UK is a thriving powerhouse of innovation and has the capability to produce most of the components needed for an EV – and with the right legislative support and funding, our capacity can be scaled up. That means more battery and hydrogen vehicles and components, widely affordable and accessible green energy, more timely connections to the grid, and access to the skills and training needed to futureproof our workforce for net zero. Government’s budget will be the first chance it has to bring in measures to that end, and SMMT will continue to back the sector as we look to make this year even better than the last.