CEO Update

UK’s next government must boost industry to deliver the future, faster

24 May 2024 #CEO Update

With the country set for the twists and turns of a long-awaited election, planning for a sustainable and competitive future, one in which the UK can lead, must be a top priority for any incoming government. A thriving automotive industry can deliver that future, of decarbonisation, serving society, competing globally and delivering new jobs, but we need smart policymaking to create the conditions for success.

A watershed moment came this week with the approval of the Automated Vehicles Bill, backed by all parties, to put the UK alongside a handful of other nations with regulatory frameworks for self-driving vehicles. It gives our domestic industry the clarity it needs to turn ambition into reality, opening the door to innovation that will revolutionise society and road safety. Whatever the outcome of next month’s poll, industry will continue its close collaboration with government and other important stakeholders to ensure necessary secondary legislation supports the safe and responsible commercial rollout of this next-generation technology. The prize is huge, potentially saving an additional 3,200 lives and preventing 53,000 serious accidents by 2040, all while bringing a £38 billion boost to the UK economy.

Net zero brings massive benefits too, and with governments round the world supporting their own industries and markets in the transition, the UK must do the same. There are few better markets for buying a new EV than the UK, with more than 100 models – a third of all new cars available and from all segments – now offering purely electric motoring. That spectacular range of choice was evident at SMMT’s annual test driving event at Millbrook Proving Ground yesterday, with some 300 journalists putting the latest tech from more than 30 global brands through its paces. Cross-party support, like that achieved for the Automated Vehicles Bill, is fundamental to UK decarbonisation, but the transition must be fair for all motorists. SMMT’s recent Manifesto 2030 makes clear that reforming taxes on both EV purchases and public charging, while speeding up chargepoint rollout, are the most effective ways to do it.

Decarbonising buses is equally important given the societal importance of the sector in providing affordable mass mobility. As SMMT’s new position paper Next Stop, Net Zero: The Route To A Decarbonised UK Bus Market published this week shows, the sector is already leading Britain’s transition. Manufacturer innovation means buses are our most advanced market for new zero emission vehicles, with new electric and hydrogen models improving air quality, minimising noise and creating a modern and pleasant passenger experience. All bus operators must be on the journey, however, and an appropriately ambitious incentive scheme is essential – for vehicles but also infrastructure and grid connections, at depots and shared locations. Such measures, like those for the new car market and self-driving vehicles to come, can help make our roads fit for a better future.

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