By Debbie Holden 03 Apr 2018 7 min read

As Brexit countdown starts, automotive sector sets out priorities

As the transition period for Brexit has now been agreed, the automotive industry must look to the future to ensure that it remains a competitive entity in the sector globally. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) released a statement last week setting out its priorities which it hopes will ‘assure the UK automotive industry’s future success’.  

The SMMT highlighted the need for the industry and government to work together in order to safeguard the UK automotive industry’s influence and the thousands of jobs it provides. With vehicle production figures predicted to fall slightly over the next couple of years, it is essential that the industry is proactive over the next 12 months.  

In order to stay competitive, the UK automotive industry will need to stay at the forefront of developments in materials, the electrification of vehicles and autonomous technology. The SMMT says that while the Government’s Industrial Strategy does recognise this, ‘cross-Government policies must align to deliver on the ambition’.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, commented that the decision on the Brexit transition period was “essential, providing a short-term boost and a degree of certainty for investors.” He added: “The next major hurdle will be securing a new, comprehensive trade agreement with the EU and our partners across the world. In the meantime, government must help make the UK as competitive as possible. Government’s Industrial Strategy and Automotive Sector Deal are positive steps but we need concrete action if we are to stay ahead in what is an intensely competitive global environment. New figures out today show the positive impact our industry has on other sectors so it is vital that automotive competitiveness is front of mind for policy makers.”

The figures Hawes mentions are from a new study which suggests that the automotive sector’s contribution to the UK economy is around £219 billion annually. The study highlighted the importance of the automotive sector for a wide range of other industries, including logistics, freight, retail, distribution, fuel, electronics, tech, travel, advertising and motorsport. This, along with hundreds of thousands of jobs, emphasises the importance of the UK’s automotive industry. The SMMT added that the future EU-UK relationship is central to the success of the UK automotive industry. Maintaining influence here will allow the UK to weigh in ‘as crucial decisions are taken on shared issues such as CO2 and data – issues which will ultimately affect UK consumers, exporters and other businesses’.

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