The UK government must continue to work with the country's automotive industry to ensure it stays competitive, according to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders president Gareth Jones.
Speaking at the SMMT's annual dinner in London, and ahead of tomorrow's autumn spending review, Jones said that current levels of investment in the UK's automotive industry must be maintained and warned of "devastating waste" if spending cuts undermine the current supply chain.
"So much has already been invested successfully, and to pull the rug away now would be a devastating waste,” he said, “It’s a stark reminder that while our industry is a net exporter, the export deficit for parts sits at almost £8 billion. However, with the right support, re-shoring to the UK is possible – and with £4 billion of potential growth, the benefits are worth it.
"We have shown Britain has what it takes to be a manufacturing powerhouse again. But we can’t do it alone. So we say to government: 'Create the conditions that allow us to develop the quality products for which we are world-renowned. Back us to create the jobs, economic growth and prosperity that Britain needs. We have shown we can deliver; work with us to make sure that success continues.'”
Jones also outlined the key challenges faced by the automotive industry, including the planned EU referendum - described as the UK "leaving its most important trading partner" - and the continuing skills shortage. He also challenged the government to recognise the challenges of the automotive supply chain, which he says is severely affected by currency exchange rates and higher running costs. To grow, said Jones, those businesses need continued support from the government.
While the UK's productivity is falling behind that of its global competitors, Jones said automotive is one area where the UK excels. "We have the best record in Europe and our productivity has increased four times faster than the UK average," he said. "How? Sheer hard graft, hard-won investment and a culture that demands continuous improvement and innovation.”