"The UK can be a centre of excellence for low CO2 automotive solutions"

Ford of Europe CEO Stephen Odell believes the UK can be a centre of excellence for low-CO2 automotive solutions - but only if industry and government continue to work together.

Speaking at the SMMT Summit 2011 event today, Odell called for a policy framework to be set out in conjunction with the Government for the future. He said: “The automotive industry is prepared to invest. Do the politicians believe in the future as much?”

Minister for Business and Enterprise Mark Prisk responded by claiming the Goverment is committed to supporting a stronger partnership with the car industry.

Prisk praised the car industry and described the government relationship as a “good news story”. He singled out the Automotive Council - founded in 2009 with a goal of forging closer Government ties for the industry - as key to this partnership, praising the focus and direction it has given to future planning.

There is now a dynamic, “candid” relationship between government and the automotive industry, led by the Automotive Council, Prisk said.

He added: "If government and the automotive industry each plays their part, we can put design and manufacturing back at the heart of the UK economy.”

The 2011 Summit, held at Millbank Tower in Westminster, brought industry leaders from across the sector together to debate the future of the UK automotive industry.

Consensus was that the public should decide which green technology works best: manufacturers should offer a broad choice of solutions, with Government setting targets for the rate of CO2 reduction rather than the type of solution employed.

Prisk said: “We need to ensure all technology has an opportunity to flourish.”

Underlining his commitment to the industry, Prisk revealed he is attending the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, with Automotive Council industry chairman Richard Parry-Jones. He said the two will make “small nuisances” of themselves in selling the advantages of the UK automotive industry to manufacturers and suppliers.

According to official figures, the automotive industry accounts for 10 per cent of all UK manufacturing turnover, and the car industry exports over £25bn of products and services, which contributes £8.5bn to the UK economy. 700,000 jobs are dependent on automotive business.

However, attendees also heard that the European Commission also posed a threat to the European car industry, which employs 13 million people. Odell spoke out against the recent EC White Paper on transport policy, which called for only electric cars to be allowed in city centres by 2030, and transport outside cities to be done purely via train by 2050.

Richard Aucock

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