Driving support for West Midlands automotive supply chain

Posted on 29 Jun 2015 by Callum Bentley

A new initiative designed to attract more investment into the West Midlands’ thriving automotive sector has been launched.

Run by inward investment agency Marketing Birmingham and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), with support from local partners, Drive West Midlands will support companies throughout the supply chain and overseas investors looking to locate in the region.

It will build on work by UKTI’s Automotive Investment Organisation (AIO) – which aims to promote the UK automotive sector abroad and attract new investment – and involves the West Midlands Investment Forum, which comprises inward investment leads from the six LEPs in the region.

The programme aims to help fill the estimated £4bn sourcing gap in Britain’s automotive industry – and bring new highly skilled jobs to the West Midlands. Just a third (30-35%) of components for UK vehicles are made in the country. With national vehicle production expected to increase from 1.5m in 2014 to over 2m by 2018, there is huge potential for companies in local supply chains.

Drive West Midlands will help suppliers capitalise on the growth of this sector by coordinating activity such as:

  • Introducing smaller firms to potential new customers through ‘meet the buyer’ events and trade delegations;
  • Creating Best Practice Clubs, helping companies to share ideas and encouraging mutual assistance;
  • Hosting Business Development Workshops on topics such as exports, quality standards, access to finance, and recruitment; and
  • Promoting the West Midlands as a destination for international automotive firms at regional and national events.

Neil Rami, chief executive at Marketing Birmingham, said: “The success of our automotive sector relies on nurturing its supply chain. Global manufacturers still need networks of suppliers based just minutes away from their plants.

“With 90% of the region’s automotive companies having fewer than 100 employees, supporting the development of these smaller firms is crucial to growing the wider industry across the West Midlands.”

There are more than 1,100 specialist automotive companies in the West Midlands, employing some 40,000 people and working for major brands including Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Toyota and BMW. Of the world’s top 100 suppliers, 50 have a presence in the region.

Drive West Midlands was launched during Marketing Birmingham’s latest commercial partners’ meeting, which was attended by 100 senior business leaders from across the city. Neil Rami was joined by keynote speaker Michael Boyd, Managing Director of UKTI.

The event also involved a panel discussion featuring Joe Greenwell, CEO of the AIO; Mike Dinsdale, Managing Director at local manufacturer Guhring; Mike Mychajluk, Supply Chain & External Engagement Manager at Jaguar Land Rover; and David Atkinson, UK Head of Manufacturing at Lloyds Banking Group.

Michael Boyd commented: “The UK’s automotive industry is doing an extraordinary job. But with UK vehicle production expected to soar to record levels, it is vital for the West Midlands – and indeed the whole of the UK’s supply chain, together with local and regional bodies plus UK government – to take full advantage of this incredible opportunity, drive a step change in the quality and quantity of investment into the automotive sector and deliver the high quality jobs that will come from it.

“When added to our outstanding universities, and cutting edge research and design facilities, this creates a world-class automotive cluster in our region and is a superb base upon which Drive West Midlands can build.”

The automotive sector is a significant contributor to the national economy. Around 1.5m cars and commercial vehicles, along with 2.5m engines, are produced annually in the UK. The industry exported £34bn of products in 2013, some 11% of the UK’s total exports. Automotive secured 117 foreign direct investment projects last year, which created or safeguarded nearly 17,000 jobs across the country.

Joe Greenwell added: “The West Midlands has one of the strongest automotive industries in the world. It has a huge opportunity to capitalise on this reputation – to increase its exports, win more contracts and boost skills and employment within the local workforce. To remain competitive, our highly successful industry still needs to keep developing. Drive West Midlands provides an opportunity to coordinate services, support and advice across a range of areas within the region.”