Landmark news this week with the announcement that the UK will be host to one of the largest battery cell gigafactories in Europe, helping anchor electric vehicle production here for the long-term. Make no mistake, this is a significant announcement and a shot in the arm for the UK automotive industry, our economy and British manufacturing jobs, demonstrating that we are a country open for business and vehicle manufacturing.
It comes at a pivotal moment, with the global industry transitioning at pace to electrification and our rivals offering massive packages of support to attract investment to their shores. If we are to bring more commitments of this nature to Britain, it’s crucial we build on this announcement by promoting the UK’s fundamental strengths overseas.
After all, we already make nearly all the components needed to make EVs and the foundations of the UK automotive sector are clear – a diverse supply chain spread nationwide, a flexible, highly skilled and productive workforce, iconic brands, and world-renowned R&D capabilities with unrivalled collaboration between academia and industry.
This is a significant step for the UK, but there is still some catching up ahead of us – especially with Europe boasting over 30 gigafactories either planned, in construction or operating and the US supercharging clean tech investment through the game-changing Inflation Reduction and Infrastructure Acts. We want to be an equal partner in achieving net zero for Europe, so we must now focus on leveraging this into greater benefits, supporting our wider supply chain and delivering a holistic approach in the race to zero.
There was also promising news elsewhere, as the UK gained access to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). This trade agreement between 11 nations – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – represents a market of some 500 million consumers and so once the UK’s accession is ratified and implemented, the deal has the potential to deliver opportunities for our automotive industry.
We do, however, need to see the detail to understand how it can be exploited to benefit the entire UK sector, whether it be large OEMs or small and specialist vehicle manufacturers, suppliers or the rest of the industry.
By Mike Hawes, SMMT CEO