With car production running at twice the levels of the 1980s the UK automotive industry continues to be a world leader in motorsport and engineering design.
The continued restructuring of the automotive industry brought plant closures around the world last year. In the UK however, this continues to be offset by new developments: the country attracts approximately 60 per cent of Europe’s automotive inward investment. In 2005 it produced 1.6 million cars – close to the peak output of the 1970s – plus over 200,000 commercial vehicles. Export volumes are at record levels, with over 73 per cent of cars and 62 per cent of commercial vehicles sold abroad.
This robust performance is due largely to unprecedented investment by leading manufacturers from the USA, Europe and Japan. BMW, Honda, Toyota and Nissan are all expected to increase their UK production this year, with new models including Nissan’s SUV people carrier, designed and engineered in the company’s UK facilities.
By size, the UK industry ranks ninth in the world and fourth in Europe. But its impact and influence are disproportionately large. Seven of the world’s leading car manufacturers and 19 of the top 20 component manufacturers have plants in the UK. BMW, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen all import UK-built cars into their own home markets. And the UK commands at least 80 per cent of the global motor sport market. No other European country has such diversity and strength.
In addition to the more than 170 vehicle-making companies, including truck and bus companies, over 100 specialist sports car builders and the makers of most Formula One cars have a presence in the UK. Two of Europe’s ten most productive plants are in the UK and value added per employee has risen 45 per cent in three years.
Vehicle manufacturing provides 221,000 jobs and contributes £9.8 billion value added to the economy. More than 2,600 component makers contribute over £4.8 million added value and employ 132,000 people. The UK is Europe’s second largest consumer vehicle market – buying more than 2.4 million cars in 2005 – and the retail and service sector adds another 65,000 businesses employing 550,000 people.
Driving force in powertrains
The UK is a centre of excellence in power train design and production. It produces close to three million engines a year, worth around £3 billion. Ford sources 25 per cent of its global engine requirement from the UK, including 50 per cent of its diesels, and its Bridgend plant is on schedule to produce a million units a year by 2010. Following BMW’s decision to transfer engine production from Brazil, all its four cylinder engines are now UK-built.
Leadership in motor sport
The credibility of the UK’s design engineering is enhanced by its dominance in global motor sport. UK design, production and team management includes Formula One, Indy Car, World Rally Championship and the British Touring Car Championships. The motor sport sector has annual sales of £4.6 billion and employs 38,000 people. In 2005 Honda opened a new £30 million wind tunnel for F1 development. It also supported the launch of the new UK-based Super Aguri F1 Team, which has designed and built its entry for the 2006 World Championship in barely six months.
Ahead in innovation and style
The UK’s independent design engineering sector is in demand worldwide for its flexibility, responsiveness and innovation. Its 7,500 people generate sales of around £650 million, around two-thirds from overseas, and it is underpinned by world-class universities. The UK is also a major influence in styling: UK-trained designers work for manufacturers worldwide, and Nissan recently relocated its design studio from Germany to London. The sector is now winning increasing business from car makers in China and India.
Strong government support
The UK Government aims to maximise opportunities for the industry through a partnership approach to policymaking, regulation and R&D. It supports the SMMT Industry Forum which has worked with over 450 car and component manufacturers to deliver quality and productivity benefits valued at £118 million. In 2004 it launched the Automotive Academy to raise skills standards throughout the industry. And it has contributed half the £100 million funding for over 100 projects in the Foresight Vehicle Mobility programme which fosters efficient knowledge transfer between academia and industry.
In 2005 the Government also helped to establish the Low Carbon and Fuel Cells Centre of Excellence and the innovITS Centre of Excellence for intelligent transport systems to help build UK competitive advantage in these fields.