Investment is key to automotive recovery
Recovering from the far reaching effects of the pandemic will be no easy feat. With the government’s roadmap out of lockdown expected next week – which should provide clarity on reopening retail, something that must happen as soon it’s safe to do so – there is more optimism about the immediate future. Longer term, the industry received its own boost to the arm with the announcement that Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s largest automotive business, has confirmed its long-term commitment to the country. UK automotive has proven itself to be strong, innovative and agile and so this is extremely welcome and provides a confidence boost to the wider sector at a critical time.
Investment that is built around sustainability – with electrified and hydrogen models as well as connected and digital technologies – matching government ambitions and increasing consumer expectations will be a key step towards getting this industry to where it needs to be.
The news comes as Nissan commits to increase its investment in its Sunderland plant to more than £1bn over the next few years with green technology at the forefront, and follows previous U.K. industry announcements on additional battery production in the North East and the £100m investment by Lotus for a new prototype model. Furthermore, we also heard this week of Ford’s own commitment to electrification by the end of the decade. These statements firmly demonstrate the commitment of the industry to sustainability, a commitment that is to be delivered at a rapid rate, which will in turn sustain sector jobs and support livelihoods.
Keeping up this momentum, however, is not just the responsibility of the sector. All stakeholders must play their part. We need a massive expansion of charging infrastructure, for instance, and we must do everything we can to improve the UK’s competitiveness as global competition remains fierce. To do this, government must ensure advanced manufacturing has its full support, with a policy framework and plan for growth that reduces costs, accelerates domestic battery production and electrified supply chains, and incentivises R&D and skills development.
A turnaround in fortunes is certainly needed by the bus and coach and heavy goods vehicle sectors, with news this week from SMMT showing how new registrations declined by -32.0% and -32.2% respectively in 2020.
The bus and coach sector, has been hit extremely hard by the pandemic, with passenger numbers plummeting last year and with it, demand for new vehicles. It’s now critical that the sector funding and National Bus Strategy promised by government is released. This will boost operator confidence, allowing them to invest in the latest electrified buses and coaches for their fleets, stimulating the economy, improving air quality and keeping society moving in the process.
The investment needed to help the entire automotive sector on the Road to Zero will be a key theme of SMMT Electrified 2021 on 25 March. The conference will bring together industry leaders, government, media and key stakeholders from the energy, fleet and logistics sectors to discuss the latest developments and what is needed to create a sustainable transport system fit for today, and tomorrow.