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Britain’s base is strong – we must now scale up

Published to the CV Show website on
16/03/2023

With the launch of a new SMMT net zero blueprint at the House of Lords on Monday followed by yesterday’s Spring Budget, it has been a busy week in parliamentary matters, with key decisions to be made about the British economy and direction of travel for UK Automotive as other countries significantly back their own sectors.

There were some broader positives for Britain’s proud CV sector in the Chancellor’s statement, including steps towards an industrial strategy to attract investment; investment zones focused on advanced manufacturing, R&D and technology; tax breaks for capital expenditure; and extensions to climate change agreements. HGV operators, meanwhile, will continue to benefit from a freeze on vehicle excise duty, while there is potential for investment in bus services in England via a ‘new wave’ of regional devolution deals.

In many senses this was a missed opportunity for the UK, however, to contend with the giant rafts of support on the way to automotive sectors elsewhere, such as the US’s $370 billion Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan. Britain has strong foundations in zero emission vehicle (ZEV) production and supply chain, however, government investment needed to scale up our capacity is yet to be addressed. We also await key measures to boost ZEV uptake, such as public charging and refuelling infrastructure to meet the en-route needs of commercial ZEVs, and a reduction in VAT on public charging – despite a new fuel duty freeze for conventionally fueled vehicles.

As highlighted in this week’s new SMMT report Race to Zero: Powering Up Britain’s EV Supply Chain, Britain’s position at the front of the queue for automotive investment will be at risk unless government responds urgently to fierce international competition.

It was great to see members at the House of Lords reception, where we highlighted the strengths of the UK’s diverse and resilient CV sector, and the value of delivering the report’s new Green Automotive Transformation Strategy. The report was also accompanied by the UK’s first EV Supply Chain Directory, mapping out every company involved in electric vehicle production in Britain’s supply chain, which reveals that we make almost every component needed for an EV.

We already have a strong base, therefore it is crucial that these provide the right conditions to enable the sector to scale up and drive ambitious, globally competitive growth.

This week also saw the UK Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) launch its latest report, Coach Route Map to Destination Zero, which sets out how coach operators can make great strides towards meeting their 2050 decarbonisation goal with the right government support. Importantly, there are fast win, cost neutral solutions that can make a big difference to a sector that is 81% family or individually owned.

Coach operators face different challenges to bus operators, with many coaches being used for commuter routes, sporting fixtures, touring holidays and excursions. In some cases, compromising much needed luggage space for additional battery capacity will impact route viability.

With the future of road transport coming thick and fast, and investment decisions being made today that will decide the winners in the long race to net zero, it’s vital that the UK keeps its eye on the prize.

 

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