The UK is home to one of the most diverse automotive industries in the world. As well as hosting globally competitive, mass market manufacturers, the UK is also the world’s leading location for the design, prototyping, engineering and manufacturing of luxury, sports and specialist vehicles. Products and technologies produced by these manufacturers have some of the highest levels of domestic content seen across the entire automotive industry.
Since SMMT last published a report on the specialist and low volume vehicle sector back in 2017, the UK and international landscape has changed considerably. With an ambitious plan to decarbonise the country’s transport, a new trading partnership with our biggest export market, the EU, and an international race towards connectivity and automation, the automotive industry is facing its most fundamental change in a century.
For the sector’s small volume vehicle makers, which includes some of the most recognisable brands in the world – Aston Martin, Bentley, LEVC, Lotus, McLaren and Rolls Royce to name but a few – this transformation poses a unique challenge. Whilst these manufacturers are very much committed to the journey towards Net Zero, both in the products being developed and in the manufacturing processes used to produce these vehicles, the approach taken can be different and particular challenges are expected for the sector’s smaller businesses accessing in-demand technologies.
Specialist manufacturers continue to add a priceless societal and economic contribution across the UK. Special purpose vehicles, ranging from taxis, wheelchair accessible and adapted vehicles, hearses and motorhomes, reflect a true British success story, adding considerable value via conversions and customisation, and providing mobility solutions to consumers all over the UK.
This new report delves deeper into the substantial contribution afforded by specialist and low volume manufacturers. Though the products offered vary significantly across the different manufacturers, the contribution to innovation and technology development in the UK and the highly skilled employees that support the sector’s productivity and growth is considerable.
As the nation looks to build back better from the disruption of the past few years, the government’s Plan for Growth and ambitions for a competitive Global Britain must reflect the needs of this sector.
From a regulatory agenda that reflects the sensitivities of low volume manufacturers and the costs associated with their businesses, to a trade agenda which removes market access barriers, the importance and value of Britain’s low volume, premium and specialist vehicle manufacturers must not be taken for granted.