Currently reading: Brexit versus Remain: should we stay or leave?
The EU referendum debate will reach its climax this Thursday when the British public votes on whether to remain part of the EU
Julian Rendell
4 mins read
22 June 2016

The automotive industry is broadly in favour of the UK remaining in the European Union, according to a survey by Autocar of the main players in this country.

As the UK gets ready to vote on 23 June on whether to stay in or leave the EU, the general sense is that the car industry backs the Remain campaign. This is particularly the case for car manufacturers with owners based on the Continent or overseas and plugged into a European supply base and sales channels.

But many automotive trade associations and businesses that rely mainly on trade inside the UK are staying neutral, outwardly at least.


Last year 57% of the 1.5 million cars built in the UK were exported to the EU. With the bulk of the companies building cars or engines in the UK owned by EU companies, it makes sense that the manufacturing industry is overwhelmingly in favour of Remain.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is leading the automotive lobbying effort for Remain.

“The message from UK Automotive is clear: being in Europe is vital for the future of this industry and to secure jobs, investment and growth,” said SMMT CEO Mike Hawes. “UK Automotive is thriving, with record car exports and new registrations and the highest manufacturing levels for a decade. Our members have stated that pulling out of Europe could jeopardise this.”

Nissan employs 8000 people in the UK and is our biggest car maker, with more than 475,000 cars built last year and 80% exported to the EU. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said: “We believe it makes the most sense for jobs, trade and costs for the UK to stay in Europe. A position of stability is more positive than a collection of unknowns.”

The UK has a unique position in the global industry as a maker of luxury cars, epitomised by Volkswagen-owned Bentley, which has enjoyed more than £1.5bn of investment since 2001 and last year made 4000 cars with around 10,000 employees. “We are in the middle of an £840m investment programme, a large proportion of which is in our factory in Crewe,” said a spokesman. “We will continue to make investment decisions on a case-by-case basis.”

Vauxhall makes cars in Ellesmere Port and vans in Luton. It said: “Vauxhall is part of a fully integrated European company, benefiting from the free movement of goods and people within the world’s largest trading bloc, the EU. For the UK not to be part of the EU would be undesirable for our business and the sector as a whole.”

The Italian-American Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is not an obvious contributor to the Brexit debate, except that last year it moved its corporate HQ to London. FCA is, however, unusual in that it is not publicly pro-Remain. “We are neutral on Brexit and don’t have a view,” said a spokesman. “It is up to the British people to decide.”


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Brexit: 77% of UK motor industry wants Britain to remain in EU


The bosses of several importers recently spoke clearly in favour of Remain at a panel discussion ahead of last month’s Autocar Awards, and all five industry bosses present unanimously backed Remain.

Ford is very clear,” said Ford of Britain chairman Andy Barratt. “We want a stable economic environment. To cut ties with our biggest trading partner is plain wrong.”

This message was echoed by Tony Whitehorn, president of Hyundai Motor UK. “Over the next two years, if we exit Europe, we will have more instability,” he said. “And no one wants instability.”

Mitsubishi Motors UK managing director Lance Bradley said: “Uncertainty kills businesses and an exit vote will bring enormous uncertainty for at least two years after, and maybe five years.”

Continuing the theme, Paul Williams, CEO of Ssangyong UK, said: “Businesses are all about certainty and Brexit means uncertainty.”

Volvo Cars UK’s customer services director, David Baddeley, held a similar view. “We are for staying,” he said. “Stability is the basis for business development and strong investment.”

The National Franchised Dealer Association (NFDA), which counts 4500 main dealer sites as members, ran a poll earlier this year and 42% came out for Remain, the balance split between undecided and Brexit. “The bulk of main dealers want to remain in the EU,” said NFDA boss Sue Robinson. “That’s particularly true of the bigger dealers with close links to manufacturers.”

Smaller independent dealers are understood to be split, with some hoping to shed red tape with a Brexit.


Join the debate


20 June 2016
In or out, roll on next week.

20 June 2016
The debate is just that, a debate and in reality there is no right on wrong answer to this question. The grass is always greener on the other side... but in reality is isn't.

From a motoring manufacturer perspective whilst is would be more convenient that we remain in the EU, the reality we all live in a global community and trade will continue (not just in cars) whatever the outcome.

Ramifications for the motor industry are years in the future. The likes of BMW, Nissan, VW, Toyota, etc are not going to pull out overnight, they have far too much invested for that. They will all be watching and seeing how it unfolds afterwards.

What we have to hope for is that which ever Government we get next (and after that for that matter) don't mess things up. Keep our current financial, manufacturing and political balance broadly the same there shouldn't be any issues. Get someone who stirs it all up (in a negative way) then we could be in trouble...


20 June 2016
....this seems to be the message from the SMMT and a few industry bosses.
However i am sick of individuals who are not British, telling us how to think and vote...Ghosn for one and especially Obama, who is hypocritical in the extreme.
Interesting that one industrialist who I particularly admire for his clear thinking (Sir Anthony Bamford), is unequivocal in his support for the leave campaign.

It is true that we will inevitably have to transition through a period of pain post a Brexit vote, but better this than to continue the status quo of no control, no ability to negotiate and paying an enormous financial cost for the privilege.
Maybe some good would come out of all this and the EU would implode causing a complete 'back to basics' rethink of an out of control bureaucracy......without Angela Merkel steering the bus.

20 June 2016
There is no way on gods earth the German owned company Bentley employ 10,000 people in the UK, I don't even think their engines are made in the UK. And why ask Volvo they don't even make a single car in the UK

20 June 2016
If it means getting rid of the meaningless 'EU combined' economy figures, I'll vote out.

20 June 2016
A pretty one sided view. How about a list of all the EU rulings and regulations that makes life harder just to balance it out?
Do you honestly think if we vote out then all these car manufacturers are going to pull out? Course they're not the UK makes them too much money, if we didn't they'd already have gone.

21 June 2016
Autocar hasn't taken a view. They have reported the views of the industry, and it favours Remain. You are simply annoyed because the facts don't support your opinion.

20 June 2016
If we do leave then I hope we get a referendum on accepting the terms of our 'freedom' from the EU. If it transpires it's going to cost millions of jobs then that's OK as long as we pro-actively decide to vote for it. Having a referendum on leaving the EU is a waste of time and money because no one actually knows what the new deal would look like. It could be a lot worse than the deal we have.

20 June 2016
that its UK made cars would cost the customer as much as 10 percent more. Which is odd, since it is likely that the British Pound will depreciate against the euro. As much as I'd like the Brits to stay within the EU, I do blame Brussels for causing the UK to drift away from the Union. Not the other way round. There are more who dislike what has become of the EU. In the Netherlands some already say "Brexit? Who's Nexit?"

20 June 2016
Bentley employ 4000 people and last year produced just over 10000 cars.


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