The flagging UK automotive trade is shifting too slowly on battery manufacturing to compete on the worldwide market

The flagging UK automotive trade is shifting too slowly on battery manufacturing to compete on the worldwide market


Automotive manufacturing within the UK stalled dramatically final 12 months. The pinnacle of the trade commerce physique described the state of affairs because the “hardest in many years”, and the numbers actually again up his declare.

The newest automotive registration figures present that 2021 was up simply 1% on a COVID-ravaged 2020 – and manufacturing truly went into reverse gear.

In November 2021, UK automotive manufacturing dropped by virtually 29%, the fifth consecutive month of output falling, and the worst for the reason that mid-Eighties. October’s figures had been the worst for the reason that Fifties.

General, automotive making as much as November 2021 was 6.2% beneath that of 2020, with 797,261 vehicles made – worse even than a 12 months wherein UK manufacturing was so badly affected by manufacturing unit stoppages attributable to the primary lockdowns.

This issues not just for the 180,000 individuals employed instantly in auto manufacturing or the 864,000 jobs throughout the broader automotive trade. The trade accounts for 13% of whole UK export of products, price £44 billion, and invests £3 billion every year into automotive analysis and improvement.

Neither is this simply a problem for the UK. The worldwide microchip scarcity had a significant impression in 2021, and will value the worldwide auto trade as a lot as US$210 billion (£155 billion) in misplaced gross sales in 2022, with output curtailed by virtually 8 million autos.

Of the vehicles that had been made within the UK, over 80% had been because of be exported, with most of these (some 60%) sure for the EU. Asia accounted for 15.6% of UK automotive exports, the US 13.4% and Australia 1.2% (that new commerce cope with Australia is welcome however received’t actually enhance UK automotive exports a lot). General, exports to the EU fell by 29% in comparison with the identical interval in 2020, with extra dramatic falls additional afield, down by 57% to Japan and by 67% to the US.

Now the chief govt of the Society of Motor Producers and Merchants, Mike Hawes, has referred to as for extra help for the trade. He additionally flagged up dangers round new customs preparations between the UK and EU that come into impact from January 1 2022.

He stated: “With an more and more unfavorable financial backdrop, rising inflation and Covid resurgent house and overseas, the circumstances are the hardest in many years.

“With output massively down for the previous 5 months and more likely to proceed, sustaining cashflow, particularly within the provide chain, is of significant significance. Now we have to look to authorities to offer help measures in the identical manner it’s recognising different COVID-impacted sectors.”

A smoother journey

Wanting forward, a new manufacturing outlook report forecasts that UK automotive and van manufacturing may edge above a million in 2022, and even attain 1.2 million in 2024. Again in 2016, the UK produced 1.7 million a 12 months. However that now appears a really very long time in the past, with output broken ever since by a mixture of worldwide markets, Brexit uncertainty, and COVID-related provide chain points.

Long run, the auto trade has to cope with probably the most pronounced change in its historical past, with a speedy shift now underway in direction of battery powered electrical autos. The UK authorities has set a 2030 deadline to part out the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles, however insurance policies to really get there appear half-hearted.

Progress isn’t helped for instance, by the gradual velocity of charging infrastructure roll out, or the large reduce in subsidies accessible for brand new battery electrical autos which suggests many don’t qualify for help.

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On a optimistic notice, British manufacturing of battery electrical autos and hybrid vehicles (with a combustion engine and a battery) took a file share of manufacturing in 2021, accounting for round a 3rd of all vehicles made in November, and greater than 1 / 4 (26%) over the 12 months.

Of these, battery electrical car output was up in November by 53% to 10,359 models, hitting a brand new excessive of virtually 14% of manufacturing, greater than double the extent a 12 months in the past. UK-based automotive makers like Nissan, MINI and the London Electrical Car Firm produced greater than 60,000 zero emission autos in 2021.

However UK battery manufacturing is lagging behind main funding throughout the EU, which is aiming to be unbiased in battery manufacturing by 2026, and has introduced collectively seven nations to type the European Battery Alliance. And whereas there’s confirmed funding in only one battery “gigafactory” within the UK, there are at the least 15 beneath development in nations together with Sweden, France, Germany, Hungary and Poland.

Funding in battery manufacturing within the UK will must be accelerated dramatically given the shift to electrical autos now underway. Past that, higher and extra joined-up help for the auto trade will likely be wanted to get to 2030 with a viable mass UK auto trade intact.


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September 2022