Britain’s still motoring

Professor Garel Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research, told delegates at a recent seminar that the automotive industry in Britain is alive and well and still a major global player.


Professor Garel Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research, told delegates at a recent seminar hosted and organised by Corus that the automotive industry in Britain is alive and well and still a major global player.



The annual event attended by representatives from many of the UK‘s leading automotive tier-1 suppliers was held at Corus’ Port Talbot plant on Thursday 13 October.



Professor Rhys stressed to delegates that 28 per cent of UK car plants’ output was bought in Britain and that over 72 per cent was exported. “The automotive industry accounts for 9.5 per cent of UK manufacturing exports by value and UK factories turn out three per cent of the global production and nine per cent of European production, with £8.5 billion value added to the UK economy. It is the foreign buyer who keeps the UK factories going, not the home market,” added Professor Rhys.



Nissan in Sunderland, Toyota in Derby and Honda in Swindon are the top three car plants in Europe and envied in other parts of the Continent. Professor Rhys added: “With much attention given to the recent collapse of the MG Rover Group, it’s easy to forget that the UK automotive manufacturing industry still involves 3,200 businesses employing over 215,000 people”.



In particular, the jewel in the crown in UK automotive manufacturing is diesel and petrol engine production. “A quarter of Ford’s total global engine production output is here in the UK“, added Professor Rhys. In addition, the UK leads in motorsport technology and development and is also renowned the world over for educating, producing and nurturing some of the automotive industry’s very best designers.



Professor Rhys said that what Britain had to do to keep ahead of competitors was to lead in areas of testing and technology and he urged major suppliers at the seminar to spend more on research and development to give added value to the products.



Professor Jon King, director of Corus Automotive, agreed and told delegates that product innovation was the key to future success and that if the UK and European automotive industry wanted to keep ahead of developing countries such as China, then firms need to double investment in research and development.



He urged component suppliers at the seminar to work with Corus from concept to creation of products as he felt all participants in a venture could learn from one another and thereby compete far more efficiently in world markets.



“Although there is partnership in the automotive industry at vehicle manufacturing level I don’t think it extends sufficiently down the supply chain. UK suppliers working in partnership with us, can benefit from our material expertise to provide solutions to the cost, weight and reusability challenges car makers face today.”


Professor Garel Rhys concluded: “There are problems but the UK automotive industry is far from dead and the only question is what it will look like a few years from now? There are signs for hope.”