CEO Update

SMMT Summit could not be more timely

21 June 2024 #CEO Update

There could be few more timely SMMT International Automotive Summits than this year’s iteration, as the UK industry’s flagship event focussed on global competitiveness comes little more than a week before Britain goes to the polls. With the formation of a new parliament and fresh legislative agenda, the next government must make Britain even more attractive for investment. The best approach, as SMMT’s Manifesto 2030 sets out, is through policies that facilitate sustainable and affordable energy, diverse and thriving zero emission vehicle markets, futureproofed skills and jobs, and trading relationships that are fair and without barriers.

Someone who knows only too well how to formulate policy is former Downing Street advisor Rachel Wolf, who will be delivering a keynote at the event and joining other leaders from industry and beyond, providing insights and perspectives on the major topics across the day. The last few tickets are available here.

While recent years have been anything but smooth, the UK sector has always been open for business, keen to attract investment and build trading relationships with overseas markets. This was a theme drawn out in many discussions this week as an SMMT delegation visited South Korea and Japan, our first since 2019. Given so much has happened since then – including the signature of the Brexit agreement and a global pandemic – the importance of conducting face to face meetings with key stakeholders in these countries is clear.

Moreover, with the UK currently negotiating an updated free trade agreement with South Korea, and soon to gain access to the CPTPP with the support of Japan, these are key trading partners. Yet there is also concern about the UK’s shift to electrification, its competitiveness and how these issues might be affected by a change of government, so it was important to reassure these partners of the continuity of support for automotive that will likely result whatever the outcome of the General Election. With protectionism rising globally, the UK’s commitment to free and fair trade as the industry moves to a net zero future will be under strain so maintaining the confidence of investors is important. Hence the positive meetings with sister associations, Korean and Japanese governments and automotive companies in both counties.

Finally, with so much of my life spent championing the sector, at home and abroad, receiving an OBE for services to the UK automotive industry last week was a huge and unexpected honour. However, it is one I share with a dedicated and talented team at SMMT and the UK automotive industry as a whole. The recognition reinforces the importance the UK automotive sector and I would like to thank everyone working in the industry for their support, engagement and well wishes. It is always a privilege to represent the UK automotive industry.

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