In a busy news day for the wider automotive sector, SMMT’s new figures today show that UK commercial vehicle production declined by -21.6% in February, with just under 6,500 vans, trucks, taxis, buses and coaches leaving factory lines. The decline, in part due to lumpy supply constraints that still rear their head, should be put into perspective, however, following strong growth last year and the best January performance in a decade.
As a result, output is still up in 2023 to date, at some 15,790 units, up 4.3% on the first two months of 2022. February’s decline is expected to be temporary, as volumes are set to increase significantly over the full year, particularly with a major new electric van plant due to come on stream.
The CV sector is committed to decarbonisation – and today has seen the launch of the long-awaited ZEV Mandate consultation on what is a watershed regulation for the UK new car and van market. While the proposals rightly reflect the sector’s diversity, late publication and lack of regulatory certainty make product planning near impossible, and the continued lack of clarity as to what technologies will be permitted beyond 2030 undermines attempts to secure investment.
Plus, we need all stakeholders, not just manufacturers, to play their part. We need greater charging infrastructure that meets the specific needs of the UK’s growing van fleet. Infrastructure planning for the HGV and coach sectors must also be on government’s horizon.
If the UK is going to follow on its word and lead the global race to zero emission mobility, government must go further and faster in unlocking infrastructure investment, incentivising EV ownership and helping ensure more of these vehicles are developed and built in Britain.
Meanwhile, the bus sector has today received the Transport Committee’s report on the National Bus Strategy, which recognises that government has an ambition for 4,000 new zero emission buses to be put on the road by the end of this parliament. However, the process to obtain funding and place orders is slow and piecemeal, and it is challenging for UK manufacturers to confidently invest in new types of vehicle and manufacturing hubs.
The report also asks government to set out a clear, staged plan for the full transition to zero emission buses, in tandem with the delayed response to its consultation on ending the sale of non-zero emission buses. This should include a clear long-term funding plan focussed in particular on difficult-to-decarbonise rural routes and supporting the installation of costly new infrastructure.
SMMT has said for some time that funding of zero emission buses has not been made available for a large number of Local Transport Networks, and funding for infrastructure is just as important. The industry is committed to delivering decarbonisation – and every lever must be pulled to help the nation to make the switch.