Industry reacts to government’s automotive strategy

Posted on 15 Jul 2013
The Cosworth automotive factory, Northampton.

The announcement of a new £1 billion investment package that is expected to provide a boost to the automotive sector was welcomed by trade bodies and unions.

Philippa Oldham, head of transport and manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, lauded the strategy’s focus on the automotive supply chain. She said: “It is very welcome that government and industry have identified the need to not only invest in original equipment manufacturers, but for investment to be made to support the entire supply chain including SMEs.”

After reminding of the need for skills to ensure the industry keeps thriving (the strategy provides for securing 30,000 jobs in car manufacturing in the coming decades) she added: “By learning from each other the sector will ensure that UK plc benefits as a whole, so it is great to see that the strategy plans to work with both the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the Transport Systems catapult. The UK must take advantage of these Catapult centres to capture and commercialise the best of UK innovation.”

Manufacturers’ organisation EEF also commented on the government’s strategy for the automotive sector.

Ms Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, said: “Only a third of the parts that go into vehicles manufactured here come from the UK. We’re urging car makers to consider investment locations more carefully and it is therefore good to see that the strategy is looking at how this can be done. Its strong focus on technology and supply chains is positive.

“We can keep our automotive industry ahead of the game, not just through the creation of new innovation infrastructure but also by close working and collaboration across existing programmes, such as the Catapult centres.”

Unite also welcomed the long-term plan the government outlined for the automotive industry. However, it suggested more measures that could be taken to support the sector.

While supporting the strategy and the positive comments business secretary Vince Cable made on the UK’s “flexible workforce”, Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “Flexibility should not be confused with a ‘race to the bottom’. The turnaround in the fortunes of the industry has been remarkable much to the credit of Unite members in the workforce. Maintaining the current progress must be done through stable employment, decent pay and conditions and a well-trained workforce.”

Mr Burke added that the government could boost demand “at a stroke” by introducing a procurement strategy to support UK car manufacturing.

“There is so much the UK government can do to support this successful industry through procurement and bringing the supply chain back home – this is a encouraging start and we welcome it,” he concluded.