Currently reading: Brexit, falling sales, diesel: how car bosses will tackle 2018's problems
Will this be a happy new year for the car industry in the UK or are its leaders worried about Brexit, new legislation and technology shifts?

We've asked some of the biggest players in the UK car industry on their thoughts from 2017 and what they expect from the year ahead. 

What was the biggest challenge of 2017? 

Alex Smith - Managing director, Nissan GB 

"Volumes are down across the industry and consumer confidence has taken a knock so we’re now having to work much harder for every sales and aftersales opportunity."

Alex smith nissan

Andy Barratt - Chairman, Ford of Britain 

"Matching our new vehicle range and supply to where customers and legislators are heading."

Andy barratt

Andy Palmer - Chief executive, Aston Martin 

"To go from 3600 [cars per year] to 5000-plus has been a real challenge and it’s a credit to everybody working here."

Andy palmer aston martin

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Graham Grieve - Managing director, BMW Group GB 

"A reduction in consumer confidence, combined with the misinformation around diesel."

Graeme grieve bmw

Jean-Marc Gales - Chief executive, Group Lotus 

"At a technical level, it is always a challenge to add lightness to our already lightweight sports cars."

Jm gales lotus

Jeremy Hicks - UK managing director, JLR

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"The unfair demonisation of diesel by the media and campaigners had a huge impact on our industry in 2017."

Jeremy hicks jlr

Paul Willis - Managing director, VW Group UK 

"Facing up to very challenging market conditions, yet still selling more cars."

Paul willis vw

What are the biggest challenges for 2018 and beyond?

Alex Smith - Nissan GB 

"Maintaining our leadership of the electric vehicle market. EV volumes will grow massively over the next couple of years and our rivals will be fighting hard to take our number one position."

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Andy Barratt - Ford of Britain 

"The Brexit deadline of 29 March 2019 has been set and is the biggest external headwind we face in our European business."

Andy Palmer - Aston Martin 

"I think the biggest challenges will come from factors out of our control... Brexit, consumer confidence, legislation changes in China."

Graham Grieve - BMW Group GB 

"I remain very optimistic about the coming years. New technology is driving the transformation and we are well placed to bring this to market in the wide range of new models we will launch this year and beyond."

Jean-Marc Gales - Group Lotus 

"Clearly, there are new regulations and technologies ahead and we are in a much better position to embrace and adopt under [Lotus owner] Geely. A challenge for the automotive industry is always an opportunity for Lotus."

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Jeremy Hicks - JLR

"Continued uncertainty in the marketplace caused by the government’s ongoing Brexit negotiations and consumer confusion around modern diesel technology."

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Paul Willis - VW Group UK 

"Increasing competition and adapting to the changing ways in which the car will be owned and used."

Are you more worried about Brexit now than you were at the end of 2016?

Alex Smith - Nissan GB 

"Nissan continues to work with the UK government to ensure the company’s long-term success and investment in the UK."

Andy Barratt - Ford of Britain 

"More worried, as we don’t yet have clarification on the UK’s transition out of the EU nor our [final] deal with Brussels."

Andy Palmer - Aston Martin 

"In recent weeks, we have finally seen a coming together of the macro discussions between the EU and the UK, and that should give rise to the trade discussions."

Graham Grieve - BMW Group GB 

"The continued uncertainty is a frustration and makes it difficult to plan. As a company, we have made out position on Brexit well known. "

Jean-Marc Gales - Group Lotus 

"We are planning our business for a number of Brexit eventualities, but most importantly we wish for a soft landing."

Jeremy Hicks - JLR

"Once we have certainty about the terms of the Brexit deal, then we can get really excited about the future."

Paul Willis - VW Group UK 

"My job is not to worry about things I cannot change but to run a successful business... I want frictionless trade and we must be confident that this goal will be achieved."

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Will 2018 be tougher than 2017?

Alex Smith - Nissan GB 

"We have to be smarter in the way we operate, but with challenges also come opportunities."

Andy Barratt - Ford of Britain 

"Ford of Britain has 15 new products across its car and van ranges this year... full of opportunities for a national sales company to attract more customers!"

Andy Palmer - Aston Martin 

"Generally speaking, 2017 was a good year, but you have to look at the pressures coming in for 2018 – whether that be Brexit or other volatility around the world."

Graham Grieve - BMW Group GB 

"Many of the pressures of 2017 will continue."

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Jean-Marc Gales - Group Lotus 

"This year will be more exciting and definitely not tougher for Lotus."

Jeremy Hicks - JLR

"We will have more exciting products to offer UK buyers than ever. Yes, we need clarity on Brexit but we still have strong economic fundamentals. "

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Paul Willis - VW Group UK 

"We have planned for a tougher year commercially in 2018."

What do you see as more important: autonomy or electrification?

Alex Smith - Nissan GB 

"Nissan has a strong plan and product offering in both of these areas but neither is more important than the other."

Andy Barratt - Ford of Britain 

"Further electrification is imminent, so its adoption and use with supporting infrastructure is more important in the short term."

Andy Palmer - Aston Martin 

"Between these two, it has to be electrification."

Graham Grieve - BMW Group GB 

"Both are important. Electrification is with us now and will become a mainstream powertrain choice in the short to medium term... Low-level autonomy will spread in coming years but full autonomy is a long way off."

Jean-Marc Gales - Group Lotus 

"If the market and legislation head towards one or other or both of these directions – which is likely - we will be ready with a Lotus solution."

Jeremy Hicks - JLR

"Electrification is here today and is a priority for JLR. Autonomy is well on the way and JLR is working intensively in this area. "

Paul Willis - VW Group UK 

"Both will be part of out future, with electrification affecting more people faster and sooner."

Read more 

The winners and losers in 2017's UK car market

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Add a comment…
gavsmit 12 January 2018

Excuses, excuses.....

What's put me off buying a new car is the disgraceful price rises in recent months. Every new model launch, or sometimes even just a light refresh, is accompanied by a huge price hike over the previous model well as regular, frequent increments.

I also refuse to be suckered into a misleading finance deals either - i.e. "look at this low monthly figure" whilst hiding the not one, but two, lump sums to be paid before and after the monthly payments are finished, and the ridiculously high bottom-line list price!

That's why less people are buying new cars now you greedy, any excuse (such as BREXIT) blaming,  car manufacturers!

Peter Cavellini 12 January 2018

The future is coming......?!

As the Century unfolds Cars are going to change radically,obvious you say, well, yes, less moving parts, no repairing just replacing, Cars will be the new ‘White goods’ so no really choice other than White, your choice of interior and what of new tech?, will there be new tech needed..?, all these factioids point to less People needed to produce a Car to produce parts,Car makers are going to have find a unique USP to get the sales, also, the knock on effect is there might be no need say in fifty years for Garages to have mechanics, maybe Cars will be fixed remotely...?, you know, your Car will be connected and any updates or detected faults will be fixed without needing to go in and waste time sitting waiting drinking aweful Coffee or Tea!, no Car makers better start thinking....

HiPo 289 12 January 2018

Nissan inspires most confidence

Nissan are looking forward and seem to acknowledge that there is major disruption just around the corner. EV battery costs are dropping so fast that this must make a major impact in the next few years.

Unfortunately some others, notably JLR, are looking backwards a bit too much. I hope they don’t repeat mistakes from the history of the UK Motor industry in the 1960s and 70s - i.e. complacently refusing to adapt to new threats. The SMMT seem to have a similar position of inertia. That could be damaging.