The UK car industry must communicate its strengths and value to the economy if it is to attract the best talent and remain strong after Brexit, leading politician Sir Vince Cable has said.
Speaking at Autocar’s Great British Women event today, which celebrates the input women have in the industry, Cable, a former business secretary, said change was needed to ensure success continued.
“The car industry has a deep cultural issue to address if it is to attract female talent, especially to manufacturing and engineering,” said Cable, who was won back his seat as Member of Parliament for Twickenham. “You need to persuade young people that the car industry has a future.”
Cable said the future was looking promising, citing the drastic rate of evolution the sector has gone through in recent years. He said: “I grew up when it was considered to be an industry where everyone was endlessly on strike, the companies were mismanaged, there were these smokestack factories where metal was bashed and the industry was part of our country's history.
“Now all that has changed. Nissan's Sunderland plant is among the most efficient in Europe, Jaguar Land Rover is in a class of its own, a global player, and then there's the specialists from F1 teams, most of whom are here, Aston Martin, Lotus and McLaren. And, of course, there's Rolls-Royce and Bentley. German-owned but another two UK firms that are very different from that old image I described.”
Cable said this showed that the British industry was now at the absolute “cutting edge”, but that the industry still needs to effectively communicate that to talented potential employers.
“There are technically minded men and women [in the industry] and if you can get that message right then they will start to understand that this is an industry that is worth making a career in,” he said.
Cable, who is in contention to become the next leader of the Liberal Democrats, believes Brexit could represent an opportunity to make the car industry a more attractive segment. He said that now the two-year-long clock is ticking before Britain leaves the European Union, the industry can be a powerful force in ensuring the country gets the best deal.
“I'm delighted to see the industry, led by the Society of Motoring Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) yesterday, speak up in a way it hasn’t for a long time,” he said. “The message was clear: ‘Stop squabbling, do what you need, but remember we have a natural asset that is incredibly successful, but which will suffer serious damage if we take Britain out of the single market and so on. If we have to do Brexit so be it, but respect the needs of one of Britain's largest employers, most successful sectors, from OEMs to suppliers to all the commerce it stimulates, and make sure the foundations of it are not destroyed.’”