Leading industry figures say R&D work could make Britain an eco leader
10 May 2009

Britain’s car industry could be reborn as a world leader in developing green technology, and could get proper long-term government planning for its future, if the recommendations in a new report from leading industry figures are implemented.

The report sets out plans to nurture British car companies and set up an infrastructure that would ensure design and manufacturing takes place here. The industry-led New Automotive Innovation and Growth Team, which produced the document, says that number of jobs in the UK automotive industry shrunk by 110,000 between 1997 and 2007. It says that what is left of the sector is fragile and blames the government for being ambivalent.

One of the problems the NAIGT highlights is the significant overseas ownership of both major assembly plants and their supporting Tier 1 suppliers. This limits the amount of R&D work that can be carried out in the UK and leaves the UK competing as an “assembly location only”.

By setting up a joint industry/government Automotive Council to implement a long-term plan, it is hoped that the UK’s car industry will emerge as a world leader in environmentally friendly transport. The report sets out a 20-year scheme to develop a new low-carbon personal transport system and its infrastructure, dubbed ‘Test Bed UK’.

The technology development, including the pilot, is estimated to cost around £1bn over 10 years, and could establish the UK as a world leader in car production.

Richard Parry-Jones, chairman of the NAIGT, said there would be a wide range of benefits. “It could create 100,000 jobs, and if we reskill a workforce in manufacturing it would spill over and benefit other industries,” he said.

The recommendations have been welcomed by the industry.Paul Everitt, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, told Autocar that the key is more collaboration within the industry. He said, “With the shift to ultra-low-carbon vehicles, there is the opportunity for new viable businesses to develop, and as time goes by they may be able to carve out bigger opportunities.”

Ollie Stallwood

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