Business secretary Peter Mandelson has promised to support the UK car industry in its attempts to be a world leader in manufacturing ultra-low-carbon vehicles.
Speaking at the SMMT International Automotive Summit in London, Mandelson said the government would ensure British automotive suppliers could compete on a global stage, and try to convince more companies to locate in the UK.
“This is an industry at the end of the current stage of its evolution,” he said. “Low-carbon technologies provide a real opening for new and innovative firms to shake up supply chains and this presents real opportunities for the UK and for the UK automotive sector.
“We are very, very good at making motor vehicles in this country – everything from mass-market vehicles to Formula 1.”
Mandelson believes that some European production capacity is going to be absorbed by emerging markets and is keen to see Britain avoiding this fate. He is also keen to see commercial logic and not politics driving market decisions.
“Our job has to be to help you make sure that when the technological kaleidoscope slows again, Britain emerges as one of the best places in the world to make these new kinds of vehicles and the components to design and manufacture these new kinds of technologies,” he said.
“It is absolutely vital that process is guided by commercial logic, not politics. That’s why I put up such a stiff fight against any suggestion that the future of plants in Luton and Ellesmere Port might be decided by political considerations rather than productivity.”
The government has already pledged £150 million towards grants for R&D of low-carbon cars and electric recharging points, and encouraging the uptake of low-carbon vehicles in the commercial sector.
Major manufacturers have also shown commitment to the UK. Toyota will build its Auris hybrid in Derbyshire, while Nissan will manufacturer batteries for its Leaf in Sunderland.
“Key Tier One suppliers around the world are starting to sit up and take notice of what is going on in the UK in low-carbon cars," said Mandelson. "The trick now is to make the UK the place you can’t ignore if you’re in the low-carbon motor business.
“I’d like to think it’s a reflection of this commitment to making Britain the best place in Europe to manufacture low-carbon vehicles is one of the reasons why Toyota, Nissan and Ford have all made the decision to locate key parts of their low-carbon operations here.”