A Former Motoring Editor at the Telegraph, Erin combines a bike licence and race licence with a love of high-speed cars and penchant for embarrassingly low-speed crashes. Now she has two sons, she’s largely put her leathers to one side, preferring the cut and thrust of automotive industry debates and wondering which cars have Isofix…
A cheering night out at the SMMT (Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders) annual dinner on Tuesday. I cannot tell a lie; in years past this has not been the most scintillating of dinners; the audience wanted to drive new cars and not sit and listen to a fairly dull story about needing more investment, looser union traction at plants, better workforce flexibility, hungrier export markets… and so on.
But this year it was pass-the-prosecco time and one speaker followed another onto the stage to offer up a litany of achievements, successes and records broken. The salad days are back in town and it felt properly heartening to be part of the motoring industry (plus my generous Michelin hosts were not shy with the wine, so I’ll admit that by 10pm all would have been right with the world, whatever the message).
Still, I can do no better than offer a taste of the keynote speech made by SMMT president, Gareth Jones, to sum up the star-bound rocketship, the economic motherlode, that is the British car industry these days.
Against the background of an imminent spending review and referendum on the EU, Gareth Jones highlighted the following:
- The industry has cut CO2 emissions by more than a quarter in 10 years, exceeding targets
- There’s a new Government Centre for Connected and Automated Vehicles, matched by £100m from the industry for developing these types of vehicle
- Britain is now the second biggest new car market in the EU
- This year, the UK became the fastest growing alternatively fuelled vehicle sector in Europe
- The automotive industry accounts for 11.8 per cent of all UK exports…
- … And makes a £15.5bn annual net contribution to the UK economy
- There has been £2bn of direct UK auto industry investment this year alone
- We have the highest automotive productivity levels in Europe. Ahead of Germany.
This last statistic was followed by a deeply felt hurrah from Gareth Jones: ‘And how has this been achieved? Through sheer hard graft; through hard-won investment, and a deeply embedded culture within our companies that demands continuous improvement and innovation.’
That word ‘innovation’ again… In the Thomson Reuters 100 Top Global Innovators study released this week, 10 spots were taken by car manufacturers and tier-one suppliers, an increase on last year. I’m so proud to be part of this industry: we adapt, we change, we evolve, we forge new irons in the fire, we rise like phoenix from the ashes, and we grow stronger day by day.
Photography and video courtesy of the SMMT